NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — The greatest struggle the rising generation will have is knowing too much about the world around them — and so little about their own lives. With a few taps on a phone, we can call up the exact population of Lincoln, Neb., or find out what the purpose of our pancreas is. More importantly, we can jump to any verse in the Bible and find a wealth of commentary about it.
This world of knowledge, however, comes with its own psychological and intellectual issues. Specifically, we don’t have to remember stuff. We can skate by with a cursory knowledge of things and — when we need to — dive deep into a topic and have full knowledge of facts, stats and figures. As our minds, education and cultures adapt to this expansive yet unretained knowledge base there is a critical issue at hand:
Forgetting the details of our own lives.
If we don’t have to retain knowledge about how to make bread or some other random piece of hand-me-down information, we become accustomed to not needing to remember anything. And that goes for our personal lives. Do you remember the new guy at church last week? Do you remember the name of the random couple you went to lunch with last month?
Do you know the exact date and time you led someone to Christ?
Surprise, surprise: technology has an answer for that.
This year, two key pieces of technology have been announced that will change the way we remember our lives forever. One is for capturing our memories, one is for organizing them. Of course, they are both in prototype stages. But what if you could record every moment of your life?
At the 2012 Google I/O conference, Google revealed that the Google Project Glass was a real device. Originally unveiled as a concept video earlier in the year, at the I/O conference a live stream was sent from a variety of people wearing the glasses jumping from a helicopter, rappelling down a building, and doing tricks on bikes until they landed on stage. All live, streaming from a camera on their glasses.
Google announced that early next year, prototypes of the device will be available to developers who want to start creating apps. The glasses contain a camera, a microphone, headphones, a touch pad, hard drive and, of course, a display that you can see for interacting with the device. The device can automatically capture photos, take video, give heads up display information like a text message and even show maps for directions.
Of course, that’s what it can do today. In the future, the device is expected to be able to do facial recognition, letting you know who you are talking to. It will be able to give augmented information, so you can just look at a restaurant and it will automatically pull up ratings from Yelp. You’ll be able to video conference, flipping the view between your phone camera’s facing you and showing off what you are seeing. In short, it’s going to change the way the real world interacts with our digital world.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has been building a prototype software called Lifebrowser. In this project, researcher Eric Horvitz has been chronicling his life the past several years by taking pictures, adding in calendar entries or scanning Facebook status updates. The Lifebrowser software automatically detects key events that happened in your life and can create “landmark events” to help organize your life dynamically. You are then able to zoom in and out of your own personal timeline to see what occurred when.
In short, two of the major technology companies in the world are working to automate the memories of your life. In a time when our ability — and even our need — to recall knowledge about the world around us is decreasing, tools are being put into place to help us digitally retain our experiences. Imagine when we’ll be able to video our full day. What does that even mean for society?
How would you talk differently if someone was recording you?
What magazines would you look at if someone else could see a live feed of your glasses?
What would you share if you could stream your life?
How do we hold on to memories, when every one of them can be shared? If our personal interactions are broadcast to the world, does it make them superficial? At the same time, if we could hold on to our cherished moments forever, how could we risk not recording them? How could I ever choose to not recall the first dinner with a new friend or the first time my child hit a home run?
We live in a world where, in just a few years, there will be companies eager to record and organize our every moment. Where if there isn’t a digital element to an event, the timeline of our lives won’t have record of the landmark occasion. Will this make us better people, or simply better at forgetting?
Aaron Linne is executive producer of digital marketing for the B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. He writes a monthly technology column for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email(baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).