Monday, May 28, 2007

Forgetting digitally

Whilst I'm catching up with ARCH's terrific blog I should point to this post.

"A major drawback of the increasing surveillance of children is that CCTV, tracking devices and databases don’t know when to turn a blind eye - a skill that parents and teachers develop to an advanced level.

When data, risk-assessments and in-depth profiles of a child can be stored indefinitely, that drawback becomes a major problem. Does anyone really want to remember their every childhood misdeed? Those little acts of spitefulness or dishonesty, the episodes of shame or pain? Part of our growth into adulthood is about constructing a version of ourselves that we can live with. Time helps us to bury grim or embarrassing memories, or at least sand the splinters off them, so that we can write ourselves a reasonably coherent and manageable autobiography. While some may brave rigorous self-analysis, for most of us there can be such a thing as too much truth.

If computers don’t forget, and they contain enough data to chatter people’s childhoods back to them years later, how will anybody cope with that? What about the person with unbearable memories, or the one who passed through a period of complete delinquency? Sometimes reinventing oneself is a survival tactic, or a chance to clean the slate and start again.

And as if that’s not enough, there’s all the stuff that children themselves put on blogs or My Space. Would you really want to see the lovesick letter you posted to the ‘Take That’ fan club message board ever again? There might come a time when the press would want to, though, or an employer, or someone who hated you.

Quite honestly, building forgetfulness into computers sounds like a very healthy idea to me."

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