What I've been reading: Delete

Sometimes, forgetting isn't such a bad thing.

Sometimes, forgetting isn't such a bad thing.

I saw a reference to this recently, and it reminded me that I must say something about it. In Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger discusses the fact that, for the first time in history, the balance between remembering and forgetting has been altered. Our default state is to forget stuff, but now we, through our technology, can remember everything.

As he says,

A society that never forgets, may stop forgiving. That unfortunate photo of yourself, or that article you wrote whilst a student, may come back to haunt you years, even decades, later.

Such a situation leads people to self-censor, not just in the here and now, but with one eye on the future. It reminds me of a science fiction story I read in which crime was effectively eradicated because the police used cameras that could go back in time to record actual events instead of people's recollections of them.

Mayer-Schönberger's suggestion is that we should remember to forget. Technology can help us by prompting us to specify expiration dates for the data we store.

I'm not sure that will ever happen, and I suspect that what will save us in the end is te fact that as technology changes it becomes harder to access things created with older technology. But it's a fascinating hypothesis.

Here are the details again. Please note that the link is an Amazon affiliate link.

Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger.

I hope you found this micro-review useful.