Unforgetful March 11, 2013

In Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age ,Victor Mayer-Schonberger explores the reversal of memory and forgetfulness in the digital age: “Since the beginning of time, for us humans, forgetting has been the norm and remembering the exception. Because of digital technology and global networks, however, this balance has shifted. Today, with the help of widespread technology, forgetting has become the exception, and remembering the default.”

He cites Google tracking of search queries as an example: “In the spring of 2007, Google conceded that until then it had stored every single search query ever entered by one of its users, and every single search result a user subsequently clicked on to access it.” As a result, “Google also knows minute details about us. Details we have long forgotten, discarded from our mind as irrelevant, but which nevertheless shed light on our past: perhaps that we once searched for an employment attorney when we considered legal action against a former employer, researched a mental health issue, looked for a steamy novel, or booked ourselves into a secluded motel room to meet a date while still in another relationship. Each of these information bits we have put out of our mind, but chances are Google hasn’t. Quite literally, Google knows more about us than we can remember ourselves.” Inevitably, Mayer-Schonberger refers to the “digital panopticon.”

Those who no longer believe in an omniscient, unforgetting God can now believe in an omniscient, unforgetting Google.

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