Thursday, November 19, 2009

Technology - Part IV - Memory

And what, pray tell, is the most defining characteristic of modern technology? I'll say Memory.

Cheap, Vast and Available

None of these three words applied to data storage twenty years ago. Not even ten years ago, which is about when things really started to move. This wealth of information has become the catalyst of change in technology today. It's a done deal already (although there is still a bottleneck in information distribution systems) for the servers and search mechanisms (thanks Google!) have now leapfrogged ahead of the rest of the cyber-universe. Sometimes it seems as if we puny humans with our kludgy gizmos won't ever be able catch up.

Knowledge and Understanding

Both concepts cease to exist without memory. And when all the histories of the world are available at the touch of a finger, how will we separate the true from the false? Perhaps a more realistic description of that dilemma would be how do we assign validity to data? Actually, a scale might work, a percentage of 1 to 100, perhaps. Complicated issues could have multiple scales. A Wiki-style grading, or even a totally automatic ranking (Google again) could further winnow the seeds from the chaff. (How quaint, yet appropriate, is that analogy?)


And thus we end up back at the beginning. Oral and visual histories have certainly been the defining element of humanity for hundreds of thousands of years. Art and literature are tangible forms of memory. A good story will find an audience, art will have its patrons, and so the dance will continue. The delivery systems may change rapidly, but our physical organism will do so only slowly, within its biological limitations. Life is brief, so let us use the new technology to expand our consciousness for the future has already begun.

By Professor Batty


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