Why we must remember to delete – and forget – in the digital age

Human knowledge is based on memory. But does the digital age force us to remember too much? Viktor Mayer-Schönberger argues that we must delete and let go

(…) The dream of overcoming human memory’s fallibility was expressed by HG Wells when, in the 1930s, he wrote of a «world brain» through which «the whole human memory can be . . . made accessible to every individual». Today, perhaps we have that world brain, and it is called Google. Mayer-Schönberger sounds an Orwellian note about this: «Quite literally, Google knows more about us than we can remember ourselves.»

His point is that a comprehensive memory is as much a curse as a boon. He cites the case of a 41-year-old Californian woman called AJ who, since she was 11, has remembered the events of her every day in agonising detail – what she had for breakfast three decades ago, what happened in each episode of every TV show she watched. That inability to forget, Mayer-Schönberger argues, limits one’s decision-making ability and ability to form close links with people who remember less. «The effect may be stronger when caused by more comprehensive and easily accessible external digital memory. Too perfect a recall, even when it is benignly intended to aid our decision-making, may prompt us to become caught up in our memories, unable to leave our past behind.» (…)

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/jun/30/remember-delete-forget-digital-age