Feeds

Memory conference considers the future of our pasts

Technology meets ethics

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Academics, writers, biographers and computer scientists came together in London today to discuss how and whether technology can and should be used to supplement and augment human memory. The stage for the meeting: the British Library, where the University of Southampton is hosting the Memories for Life Colloquium.

The questions on the table for discussion range from the technical to the profound. How can we store information is one that nearly all attendees agree has been answered pretty well. Storage is getting cheaper and new technologies promise that this trend is set to continue, according to Nigel Shadbolt, professor of computer science at Southampton university.

But delegates are also being asked to consider the ethical implications of storing our lives digitally? Do we need to remember everything, or should we be allowed to forget?

There is a tendency, one delegate said, for us to do things because we can. That, he says, must be tempered by an awareness of the social and political implications of technology.

Cliff Lynch, chair of the Coalition for Networked Information, says that the subject is an important one to debate, because how our data is captured and shared will form the basis for understanding the key intellectual, artistic and political figures of our time.

Biographer Anne Sebba points out that the biographers of the future will be working without one of the major resources on which she and her colleagues depend: letters. Now, when much of our correspondence is created digitally, and we are losing it when we upgrade our computers.

"What will take the place of those letters? The texts we send every day and never print out? We are losing so much information."

But new forms of data are taking their place. "Blogs are invaluable," Sebba notes, but with the corollary that as with all diaries, the author probably has one eye on posterity, so they should be read with a critical eye.

The conference is also tackling the science of the human memory, considering the fallibility of the human mind, and looking at whether technology has a role to play in filling in the gaps. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
The hidden costs of self-signed SSL certificates
Exploring the true TCO for self-signed SSL certificates, including a side-by-side comparison of a self-signed architecture versus working with a third-party SSL vendor.