Digitizing Your Life.

May 20, 2006

On the plane back from Las Vegas last week, I was reading the June 2006 Popular Science and I came across Michael Myser's article entitled "You'll Enjoy Total Recall."  Myser discussed Gordon Bell and how he's been recording his whole life digitally for his MyLifeBits project.  The article left me open-mouthed and gave me one of those "hey, I've thought of doing that before" moments.  So I dug deeper.  Much of this concept comes from a guy named Vannevar Bush who wrote in 1945 about his Memex concept of supplementing one's memory.  Bell has worn a prototype camera called a SenseCam that takes thousands of pictures a day of whatever he's involved in.  Presumably, there is a microphone as well.  He's also manually digitized books and photos and other things concerning his life. 

I recommend reading some of the files associated with these links and watching the video"MyLifeBits a personal database for everything" is particularly interesting.  Not only is this a system for capturing all the events of one's life, it's also an organizational system.  It takes the data coming in from cameras, microphones, keyloggers, screen captures and what have you and automatically meta tags it so you don't have to.  The goal is to avoid having an individual become his or her own file clerk, curator or biographer.  The key is being able to review the information you capture quickly and easily.  If you can't do that, what's the point?

While this technology is thrilling, it is also plain scary.  How many things do you do every day that you don't want to be recorded?  I can safely say, in my case, every single trip to the bathroom.  Plus, if you do work that is confidential, this is practically impossible to use.  Loved ones aren't going to be too crazy about it either; especially the ones you go to bed with at night.  Law enforcement would love for everyone to wear a SenseCam.  While it would be the end of privacy, it would also solve a lot of crime. 

Something like this is coming, however.  It's inevitable.  Microsoft is funding MyLifeBits and the SenseCam.  I have strong yet mixed feelings about it.  It would be very useful to someone who is as forgetful as I am, but it would also be invasive.  I'm willing to bet that just as we see soccer moms with Borg like blue-tooth headsets flashing in their ears, so we will see them soon, smiling at Starbucks with SenseCams around their necks.  Smile for the camera, honey!

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One Response to “Digitizing Your Life.”


  1. […] actually exciting.  About a year and a half ago, I wrote about Gordon Bell and his attempts to digitize his life.  While I have no intention of going as far as he has, I do […]


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