Where Human Memory Faulters, E-Memory Comes to The Rescue

Book Review: "Total Recall - How The E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything"

Quite by accident, I found, purchased and read a very interesting book called "Total Recall".

No, it isn't about any Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Total Recall, co-written by 75 year old Microsoft Researcher Gordon Bell, is about human memory and how modern technology and life-logging will merge our bio-memory (your brain) and "e-memory" to transform the very way that we look and think about our lives.

The book chronicles the intense experiment of Gordon Bell digitally recording as much of his life as possible. Photos, letters, and memorabilia were scanned. Everything that he did on his computer was captured.

He wore an automatic light, heat and movement-sensitive camera, as well as an arm strap that measured his bio-metrics. His very movements were also tracked and plotted via GPS.

Of course this is research, so while some of this sounds a bit extreme, just realize that Gordon and his research partner, Jim Gemmell, intentionally were taking things to the edge.

I read this book from the mindset of how does this apply to life story preservation!

Here is a quote from the book that begins to address Total Recall technologies and the areas that I am most interested in, life story writing, family memories and family history.


"Now imagine a complete digital record of your life. A complete e-memory of your time on earth. By recording your life digitally you have the opportunity to bequeath your own ideas, deeds, and personality to posterity in a way never before possible." 


Then with this data, Bell makes a reach/prediction as to what may be possible with such data. He continues... 

"With such a body of information it will be possible to generate a virtual you even after you are dead. Your digital memories, along with the patterns of the fossilized personality they contain, may be invested into an avatar (a synthesized persona) that future generations can speak with and get to know.

Imagine asking your great-grandfather about what he really loved about your great-grandmother. Your digital self will reach out to touch lives in the future, allowing you to make an impact for generations to come."

To me that sound very exciting, strange and like science fiction...all at once. 


Not For You? But You Are Doing It Already...Sort of!

According to the authors of Total Recall, the three prevailing technologies that will and are making the E-Memory revolution possible are:

  • Digital Recording - E-mail, digital cameras, PDA's, blogging, smart phones, Facebook, texting, online banking, GPS tracking etc.

  • Digital Storage - Becoming cheaper all the time.

  • Digital Search - Your own personal "Google", basically a personal searchable data base.

Your Bio Memory Meets Your E-Memory

Your bio-memory (your brain) is inescapably frail. Mr. Bell explains how your memories will be extended by our e-memories. It is so easy to forget things and as we age, our brain's ability to remember things diminishes. 

"In the age of Total Recall, anything, even everything, is easily recorded accurately into your e-memory. Your brain can't do this." 

The author asks us to consider the many ways that a searchable e-memory database will help augment our fallible biological brain, when it can recall: 

"...where you went, how you got there, who you met, what you did, what was said, how your vital signs varied, who you called, what you read, what you wrote, what you looked at, what pictures you took....all cross-referenced by time, location, and other natural linkages." 


This book will excite you at the possibilities or perhaps it will scare you to death.

Total Recall covers its topic inside and out. In addition to everything else, it discusses , of such information preservation, and the legalities of privacy that will surely need to be addressed.

Total Recall technologies have a lot of room for improvements, but the authors give several pages of current tools, Web sites and gadgets that they used and recommend.

I have to say that I am leaning more on the excited side, at least for now. I'm very excited at how these technologies will help the human memory.

Regardless of your thoughts now, this book is a fascinating read. It will get you thinking long and hard at where technology is taking us.

So I highly recommend you get a copy of this book, whether you check it out at your library or order a copy online at Amazon.



Evernote.com - This resource is mentioned in the book and it is one that I use on a regular basis. Tremendous tool with a near unending amount of daily life applications. 

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