Gizmodo did a week-long series of posts relating to memory and how the transition to social networking, cloud storage, and a more digital lifestyle has affected our ability to remember things, both positively and negatively.
I often joke that I, like David Bowie, have “the memory of a tiny goldfish.” what this often leads to is me forgetting often important things like birthdays, phone numbers, and previous engagements, despite my best attempts to keep these things in mind and present.
Another side-effect is my increasing inability to remember my life, past events and experiences. Sure, there are formative events, important parts of my life that I do indeed remember, and these will undoubtedly be clear to me for many years, but there are far more events, people, and places that blur together unintelligibly. I lose track of the who’s and the what’s. I get taken by the moment, unable to free myself from what is happening right now. While some people are unable to free themselves from the past, I cannot seem to find my way back to it.
In some cases, this is a good thing, a GREAT thing. I’m sure we’ve all had those moments we would rather not remember, experiences we’d rather forget. Twenty years ago, that may have been possible. Without a persistent digital memory, our past dangled above the abyss of oblivion. If I wanted to forget something, I stopped thinking about it. I burned the pictures, the letters, the drawings. Physical things held meaning, and their destruction was cathartic. Now, however, our lives are transitioning away from fickle physicality and into immortal ones and zeroes. Tiny bits of information define who we are now, and maintaining those bits and bytes from now until eternity is most likely inevitable. Vast data centers will store our information for…well…forever. Our demographics will be used as part of research and studies done by mega-Internet firms. Our pictures will remain tagged long after we have passed on. In a sense, we are now immortal. This immortality, however, brings with it another thing to consider.
In years past, a person engaged in illegal or immoral activity could hide his or her tracks relatively easily by being mindful of his or physical space. He or she could walk away from his or her old life and back onto the straight and narrow. Now, mistakes stay with you. Email exchanges, instant messenger conversations, and posts on forums persist and are accessible for many years after they have lost their relevance. They may no longer be important, but they still exist and are accessible. Can you say that about your notes from high school? Pictures from graduation? How about that wedding you went to? Digital storage and cloud computing make all of this possible.
But what if you want to forget? You can’t. You’ll run a search for something in your inbox, and you’ll be served up an email from a painful time in your life, potentially years ago. Maybe you haven’t thought about it for years, and now there it is, staring you in the face, a reminder of a past you may have tried to forget. In the physical world, the chance that mistakes will literally come back is slim. We can put things behind us, move away, physically destroy our past. In the digital world, we cannot. Just because you deleted that email doesn’t mean the other person did, and those pictures on Facebook, despite being untagged, still exist on their servers in someone else’s profile.
All of this begs us to make one simple change to our lives: live honestly.
We cannot do things the right way each time…we are human, after all. But as our digital worlds collide with the physical world, we are given the opportunity to live our lives more truly, to line up our intentions with our actions and live with purpose.
The next time you find yourself in a situation that may not be entirely characteristic of the person you have been trying to be, think of how you would like to be remembered. Chances are, someone is tagging you when the night is through, and they won’t stop to consider the ramifications of that red solo cup on your future careers. Do you want to have a job when all is said and done? Do you want to be remembered as “that guy who went nuts on the pool table wearing a lampshade as a hat?” If yes, then go right ahead, lampshade guy.
But, if you think for even one second that this is something you might not want future generations of Americans to read, don’t write it. As we move towards ubiquitous image, video, and sound capture, we will have to become increasingly more aware of the weight of our thoughts, words, and actions. So let’s all pull our pants back up and clean up our lives. Does that mean our Facebook pages may become dull and boring? Maybe. Does it mean that our lives will be lived more intentionally and meaningfully?
I’ve had the chance to use my iPad for about a week now, and the experience has been incredibly rewarding. Aside from being just…FUN, the iPad has already changed the way i think of “personal” computing. What I think is interesting is the speed at which this change has occurred. I was naturally hesitant when I started thinking about taking on the iPad as my “primary” computer, since there were things notably absent from the final software and hardware. Interestingly enough, none of those things matter now, and I wondered why they ever really did.
I packed up my little netbook this morning to sell to a colleague of mine. In order to get the little beast ready for sale, I had to reformat the hard drive. Normally, this is a process that I’m well familiar with. What I wasn’t counting on was my reaction to the process.
“Wow,” I thought as I booted into windows XP for the last time, “this is really ugly.”
I’d like to say that I miss windows XP (or vista, or windows 7), but I just don’t. I don’t see why most people would want anything other than this experience when they’re not in front of a “real” computer. I fully understand that there are programs and “apps” that simply don’t work the way they would on a desktop, but I think that’s the point. You already have a central data point at home, complete with all sorts of computing power. The last thing you need is something to duplicate that. What I (and maybe you) want, is a computer that doesn’t need to be managed, that simply disappears. The only thing I ever think about is storage capacity, and even that’s not a problem. I did fine with 16 gigs on my netbook, so the 16 gigs I have here is plenty.
The other thing i found myself able to do? Focus. How often do I get distracted by useless things on the internet, end up spending most of my day reading news articles that have no bearing on my life or my intended future life? Too often, and I’m sure most of us could say the same. This machine creates focus, it creates connection to the material. I’m not typing right now, I’m creating, I’m thinking. A machine that allows for thought, innovation, movement. This is the beginning of where we begin to see the “interface” disappear. It’s not about finding what you want in a maze of menus and jargon, it’s about the device becoming what you need it to be. It’s about synergy.
So here it is. An uncommon use of capitalization, courtesy of the iPad’s vigilance over my typing, a post about how fun it is to type on keys that don’t actually exist, and how amazing it is that the future is finally in my hands.
I read a quote from someone (or many people), who were arguing that the computer is now shifting towards content consumption, that people are becoming dumber, and that this whole thing is going to come crashing down when people are all sheep under apple’s benevolent but iron-fisted rule.
What? Really? You’ve got to be kidding me. How is this any different from using a regular computer to “create content?” Here I am, typing away on this immaculate glass screen, and you’re telling me that my creativity is dead? Is that because i can’t access the command line? Is it because I don’t have a hacker spirit? Is it because I’m just a mindless drone? Maybe it’s because I’m not running a pandora app in the background. That’s gotta be it. I just don’t get it. If I was using my net book, i really wouldn’t have a whole plethora of options in terms of this mythical “content creation,” either. I don’t run Photoshop, or edit videos…but do you do those things on YOUR netbook? Probably not. If you do, i know a whole bunch of people who would like to get in line for your magic “content creation” device.
To be honest? I probably have access to more “content creation” apps here than i do on my hp mini. If i want to draw a picture, i need a tablet of some sort. I had a tablet pc way back when. It was expensive, and it honestly didn’t do anything more than this little wonder does. Ultimately, I think its use of a traditional windowed interface was what killed it. I had to spend more time trying to figure out how to manage my screen real estate than actually use the computer. I also had to worry about things like system specs, available memory, and clock cycles. This is the ps3 of computers: you put something in, and it just works.
Bottom line is, I can “create” just as much here as I can anywhere. It’s just nicer here.
sometimes you have to change things because the old way just wasn’t working out. ze frank said that you have to get ideas out there as soon as possible, regardless of whether they’re awesome or not.
ideas are powerful, and we can’t be afraid to let them out. we can’t be afraid to hold back. sometimes, the fear of greatness is greater than fear of inadequacy.
living among fearful people is a terrible condition. no one should live in fear of failure, and no one should be afraid to ask for help if they need it. haven’t we grown past that?