Friday, October 16, 2009


When I read this piece at New Scientist this morning, I immediately thought: Tapeworms. TAPEWORMS! They are HERE among us, and there's NOTHING we can do to stop them.

Here's what the brouhaha is all about:

New Scientist is all aflutter about a new camera that hangs on a lanyard around your neck. It's programmed to take one photo every thirty seconds, unless the light meter notices a change in light, then it takes another picture, or unless the heat sensor notices you might be standing close to someone, and then it takes another picture. There's enough memory on this thing to store 30,000 images. This will be a great boon to "lifeloggers," or, as the article describes, people who want to record nearly every aspect of their lives, in entirety. Here's an excerpt:
Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell has made his life an experiment in lifelogging, recording everything from phone calls to TV viewing, and uses a SenseCam wherever he goes.

"What's great about these kinds of memory technologies is that they can be very usable for ordinary people," says Henry Kautz, a computer scientist at the University of Rochester, New York, who works on technology to assist cognition.

"Once you have that mass market, that brings the prices down." Eventually, he says, a SenseCam-like device could be part of an artificial memory used by ordinary people, just as they use notebooks and planners as memory aids today.
Do we really need such an artificial memory? Do we really need to know about our phone calls, our TV viewing, our random walks through the city streets, colliding with poles (unless you're in Britain where they've started padding the poles) because you're too busy with your electronic devices to watch where the heck you're going? Not me. I'm sane enough to realize that my life is mundane enough I don't need to record my every waking moment, even if it's recorded at 30-second intervals.

But back to the tapeworms: Arthur C. Clarke, way back in 1976, anticipated such people, in his novel Imperial Earth. An excerpt:

"I must ask you, he said, "to hand over all watches, radios, and communication devices. You won't need them until you get home."

He held up an admonitory hand at the chorus of protests.

There's a good reason for this -- and for any other peculiar requests I may make. Remember, this whole program has been worked out for your benefit. If you won't cooperate, you're only cheating yourselves. Cameras and recorders -- yes, of course. Use them as much as you like."

There was a general sigh of relief at this. Duncan had noticed that most of his companions were festooned with equipment designed to capture every aspect of their experience. A couple were obviously "tapeworms," those peculiar addicts who went through life accompanied by voice-actuated recorders, sot hat nothing they said -- or heard -- was ever lost. Unless they could do this, Duncan had been told, they did not believe that they had really and truly lived.

Such backward-looking obsession was typically Terran. Duncan could not imagine anyone on his world trying to encapsulate his whole life so that whenever he wished he could recall any moment of the past. On Titan, it was the future that mattered.
Yes, I blog. I also keep a personal journal. I take a lot of photos, and it's quite likely we'll be getting a digital video camera this Christmas. But I'm far from obsessing about every tiny little aspect of my life, and in recording things in minute detail. I'm okay with the highlights, and even if I miss a few of those, life is still worth living. It is the future that matters.

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