Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Laughter and forgetting

There's an amusing - if somewhat catty- review by Michael Wood of Viktor Mayer-Schönberger's "Delete: the Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age" in the September 24 LRB.

Mayer-Schönberger explains:

All through the analog age, for humans it has been easy to forget, and hard to remember. In the digital age, the situation has reversed: today the default is to store and remember; forgetting has become the exception. This has profound consequences for individuals and society, from how (informational) power is allocated to whether and how we retain our capacity to act in time. In this talk I analyze these consequences as well as possible solutions - legal and technical - to address the challenge posed by comprehensive digital memory. 

(One technical  solution to such a problem might be the self-destructing-digital-data system Vanish, proposed by University of Washington computer scientists earlier this year.)

Wood points out that "almost every fault [Mayer-Schönberger] attributes to 'the digital age' could have happened, did happen, in other ages by other means", and thereby sets himself up for this memorable line about the human predicament: "Like remembering  things we would rather forget and being remembered for them."

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