BusinessWeek has an interesting story about a man who wants a digital log of his entire life.
For the past 10 years, [Gordon Bell, a 75-year-old legend of computer science], a senior researcher at Microsoft, has been leading the life of a digital pack rat. He has been recording the twists and turns of his existence and storing all this information in vast digital files. Bell takes pictures and records his phone conversations. He maps the path of his footsteps and scans every shred of paper worth saving. All this effort is to build an electronic memory, a digital adjunct to the faulty and often delusional one between our ears. In an engaging new book, Total Recall, which Bell wrote with colleague Jim Gemmell, he argues that growing numbers of us—strange though it may sound—will soon be following his lead.
It would be easy to dismiss Bell as an outlier. Even with technical help from Microsoft, the digital documenting of a single life—”lifelogging,” Bell calls it—is immense work. Yet Bell, a key figure in the development of microprocessors and the Internet, points out that millions are already pouring their lives onto social networks and Twitter. He says that lifelogging “is the next step.” […]
Yet data could be used against those who collect it, too. Courts conceivably could subpoena lifelogs, much the way the special prosecutors subpoenaed President Richard Nixon’s Watergate tapes. And personal monitoring by lifeloggers could threaten other people’s privacy. This raises thorny questions. Will people have to establish ground rules for on- and off-the-record recording? “We’ll have to come up with protocols,” says Bell. (Before Bell’s recorded phone calls, an electronic voice announces that the conversation is being taped.)
The ultimate target for Bell is to create a searchable and ultra-detailed memory for all of us. For most people, the last week or two occupies most of the memories, with much of the past largely fading from our minds. Entire months, or even years, can be reduced to a few dinners, trips, or songs. But a record such as Bell’s brings back every hour and every encounter