I just read a really interesting article in Businessweek about 75 year old Gordon Bell, a Microsoft Researcher, who for the past 10 years has been lifelogging : recording his life via various pieces of digital equipment. He wears a small camera around his neck (the size of a deck of cards) that snaps photos every few seconds or whenever a change in light signals a change in venue. The device, called a SenseCam , is helping him to keep a digital diary of his life. He records his phone conversations, maps his movement and scans every shred of paper worth saving. And of course he’s written a book on the experience (Total Recall ) which I am now inclined to read in order to understand the exercise better.
In reading the article, I remembered my blog post about what would be the Walkman of 2009 . Is Lifelogging where we are heading? Will home movies and scrapbooks of photos be replaced with minute-by-minute data files of our entire existence? I guess the upside is that you do have a full transcript of your life and can relive moments that became monumental in hindsight – even if you didn’t know at the time of their significance. For instance, what if you have a data log or photo of the first conversation with the person who becomes your spouse or best friend? What if you didn’t have all of those ‘I wish I had my camera’ moments?
Equally interesting though is the burden of so much information. How to store it, access it, analyze it if necessary? Or is that the opportunity – for software programs to be developed that take multiple personal data inputs and categorizes and classifies them in usable forms? And what of the legal implications? The article points out that the files/photos/data logs could be subpoenaed, much like the Watergate tapes and that lifelogging could certainly change divorce and other legal proceedings. There is also the need for privacy guidelines – just because Mr. Bell wants to log his life doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone else would like to be a part of that experience.
The bottom line is that the future will look so different than today. The tools and gadgets that we currently employ (smart phones with video, photo, text; digital cameras no larger than your hand; interactive gaming equipment) will be replaced with even smarter gadgetry. Can a process like Lifelogging help with elderly memory issues or fill in the pieces for the generations that follow? Do I WANT to know that much about ANY other person – or myself for that matter?