Monday 21 May 2007

Total History

Today, I can pick up about 1Gb of FLASH memory in a postage stamp sized card for £10. fast-forward a
decade and that'll be 100Gb. Two decades and we'll be up to 10Tb.

10Tb is an interesting number. There are roughly 31 million seconds per year, that means 34kb of data every second.
If I assume that I spend 8 hours a day sleeping then that's enough to store a live DivX video stream — compressed a
lot relative to a DVD — of everything I look at for a year, including being in the bathroom.

Realistically, it puts a video channel and a sound channel and other telemetry —
a heart monitor, say, a running GPS/Galileo location signal, everything I type and every mouse event I send —
onto that chip, while I'm awake. All the time. It's a life log; replay it and you've got a journal file for my
life. Ten euros a year in 2027, or maybe a thousand euros a year in 2017.

History today is not that well defined. I can't remember either of my grandmothers - one died long before I was born the other when I was just 5. I knew both of my grandfathers although one has now died. Going back further, to their parents ... I know very little beyond names and dates, a few photographs.

This century we're going to learn a lesson about what it means to be unable to forget anything.
And it's going to go on, and on. Barring a catastrophic universal collapse of human civilization or the
second coming whichever comes first we're going to be laying down memories that will outlast our bones,
and our civilizations, and our languages.
We don't need much storage, in bulk or mass terms. There's no reason not to massively replicate it and ensure that it survives into the deep

We're also in some danger of losing the concepts of privacy, and warping history out of all recognition.

Our concept of privacy relies on the fact that it's hard to discover information about other people. Today,
you've all got private lives that are not open to me. Even those of you with blogs, or even lifelogs. But we're
already seeing some interesting tendencies in the area of attitudes to privacy on the internet among young people,
under about 25; if they've grown up with the internet they have no expectation of being able to conceal
information about themselves. They seem to work on the assumption that anything that is known about them will
turn up on the net sooner or later, at which point it is trivially searchable.

Total history, by analogy to total war — is something we haven't experienced yet.
I'm really not sure what its implications are, but then, I'm one of the odd primitive shadows just visible at one
edge of the archive: I expect to live long enough to be lifelogging, but my first thirty or forty years are going to
be very poorly documented, mere gigabytes of text and audio to document decades of experience.
What I can be fairly sure of is that our descendants' relationship with their history is going to be very
different from our own, because they will be able to see it with a level of depth and clarity that nobody has
ever experienced before.

I freely admit I have copied my ideas (and some text) from here

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