Monday, April 2, 2012

Life-logs? Why?

I thought "The Ethics of Forgetting in an Age of Pervasive Computing" was fascinating, though the ending completely caught me off guard. I thought they were going to counter the rationale presented with information on why forgetting is important, thus making a case for our natural memories. Instead they proposed purposefully altering the lifelog information! Interesting, but I'd like to talk about something else here.

While I have to admit the idea of documenting every minute of every day is fascinating (albeit creepy) I am not sold on the rationale. One page 9, they lay out the direct benefits of such a system. I feel like most of the reasons seem a bit weak, and the idea of enhanced "productivity and enjoyment of life by allowing the searching for and recalling of events and actions" seems laughable, specifically the productivity part. I guess what I'm really curious about is our need to relive memories down to exact sensory breakdown. I love looking through photo albums and other memorabilia from my life's events, but I think part of the enjoyment lies in using that one artifact to recall other pieces of memory, not to replay the entire experience. This idea seems to play well to our culture's self-interested, egocentric nature. I wonder how other more community-based cultures would react to this idea. Maybe I'm playing Old Lady Bartholomew again, but I find our aversion to aging and to our body's natural deterioration interesting as well, and I laugh a little at our attempt to master it by means like lifelogs when there are still things like Alzheimer's that can take it away.

I'd also be interested to see how outsourcing our memory in this way affects our brain's functionality.


  1. Interesting points. Technology has given us the ability to overcome human deficiencies. I think that through technology we can escape our humanity to some extent. The life-logs may be a silly idea to document mundane days in an individuals life, but what about those extraordinary people that have changed the course of humanity? They could be useful in documenting the history of our society.

    Do you think that it might be helpful to use technology to expand human capabilities and over come illness? Or should we leave ourselves to the human condition and die not knowing our full potential?

  2. I would slightly alter the language that Luke uses. Rather than note that "technology has given us the ability to overcome human deficiencies," I would say that we have complicitly given techology efficiency to "try" to overcome, or more accurately, manage our deficiencies. I think that such deficiencies have merely be re-routed or delayed and that technology does essentially nothing to actually alter anything, as much as we construct the perception and thoughts in our minds as though it does. We can never escape our humanity, regardless of the technological genius. If they did document our society, I'm not convinced it would be all that useful. What would we be documenting that would be so useful? Overcoming illness via human technological design, at least at the chronic or complex level, seems more an exercise in lucidity than reality. I think Luke's last statement presumes that the only alternative to technology as a means to overcoming is to to not reach our full potential. It presupposes that full potential is even possible, technologically and not so without it. I think it's a reach.