As computer chips get cheaper, we can afford to store more. In fact, world’s data doubles every 18 months. If printed out, the stacks would go to Pluto and back 10 times, according to Clive Thompson in “Smarter than You Think” .
Before Gutenberg, we relied on memory (the Oral tradition).
Now, we learn to forget, observes Clive Thompson.
MIT people are experimenting with Lifelog i.e. wearing a camera which records every moves and action 24/7. Forgetting has been necessary. As we live well into our old age (world’s oldest has just celebrated her 116th birthday), there will be too much to store in our little heads. If we crammed every bit of data into our long-term memory and tried to retrieve them, we might have a hard time since our “processor” will be grinding into a halt.
Machine-aided memory alleviates the task of storing and retrieving.
Freeing us to be future-focused.
I was struck with today’s contrasting headlines:
1. a dinosaur during the Jurassic period housed in Natural History Museum
2. the twin brothers using bit coins to travel in space (Richard Branson’s initiative).
These two events can’t be further apart on the time continuum.
Yet they co-exist and beg for our attention on the same page.
Consumers can barely recall the third brand in each category (cereal, car or cell phone).
That’s why ads compete for our Top Of Mind Attention (TOMA). As long as the product is well-positioned in the mind of a potential consumer, chances are he/she will remember and recall the brand. Inundated with choices, we often shut down and retreat into our own world. Call it psychological overload. Like Crocodile Dundee, we can no longer personally greet every New Yorker coming across our way.
Thankfully, we now have internal and external hard drives. Then we got Cloud Computing to push the envelope. The next frontier will not be in outer space. It will be in our inner space: how can we find tranquility and equilibrium amidst all the juxtaposing and upheaval in our external world.
Brazil and World Cup, Venezuela and its post-Chavez era, Ukraine and divided loyalty etc… A world where the only constant is change. So we are exposed to stimuli, many to be deleted and about 10 per cent to be stored and retrieved later. Most often, we filter out and keep only that which fits our preconception of the world. In that sense, we are curators of a world according to our own image.
In the age of data-rich, it’s we who need to change and negotiate within ourselves: what are our core values, and what need to be discarded (old information, prejudices and folklore that are unscientific ). In City of Refuge, the two main characters came back to post-Katrina New Orleans to retrieve that which were precious to them: a wedding photo etc…
From today’s stand point, we look back at those sexist ads at the turn of the previous century, and detest the prevailing attitude of the day.
But how about next century? will our current century be respected or shunned? Each era will invent its new ways, and from its vantage point, earlier eras will be found short (some day into a near future, we will look back at polluted, oil-dependent living as something to be detested). The 50’s conformity is already extinguished by the 60’s communalism. And the 60’s we’s is already replaced by the “me” of current selfie trend. So, the past is discarded at lightning speed.
Forget about it. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Leave it to the machine, whose main tasks are to store (remember) and compute (re-adjust).
And focus on what we do best: co-ordinate, collaborate and connect the patterns. Skills that machine has yet to learn and master. It is good at what it does (remembering) and we are good at what we do (forgetting).