Gordon Bell is that most single-minded of creatures - a retired man with a hobby. Except that when the computer scientist got to pensionable age he didn't decide on an allotment, but embarked on a bizarre project for Microsoft. He began storing his memories on a computer, for safekeeping. Thousands of e-mails, photos, childhood mementos and commemorative t-shirts: all are in the Bell archive. And every minute of every waking hour, a little camera around Bell's neck snaps a picture - while an audio recorder stores all conversations.
"Forgetting is not a feature," the 75 year-old believes. "It's a flaw."
Anyone who has ever dried up in an exam or groped around for their car keys would surely agree. When Amazon can remember every book you ever bought, and Google promises you never need junk another e-mail, the catch is hard to spot.
But the American technologist does have a nay-sayer: Viktor Mayer-Schonberger. Both men agree that ultra-cheap digital memory means we can remember more than ever before; both men have a book out. But where Bell has the better title (TOTAL RECALL versus Mayer-Schonberger's DELETE; an Arnold Schwarznegger smackdown beats a keyboard function*), it's the Austrian academic whose arguments are most sympathetic.
Unlike Bell, most web users don't set out to store their memories - they just want to share photos, or post a bolshie comment online. They don't realise that they are leaving digital evidence that may some day be used against them.
Mayer-Schonberger tells the story of a would-be teacher, Stacey Snyder, who was denied qualifications after university officials found her party pictures on MySpace - and deemed her unfit for a classroom. An extreme example? Sure, but plenty of cautious romantics Google their dates before meeting them.
Perhaps the most compelling argument for forgetting is that it enables one to move on. A couple of years ago, a Californian woman came to public attention. At 41, AJ could remember everything - even what she had for breakfast 30 years ago. Surely this was a gift? Not to her.
"There are all ..... these moments. You have to make a choice and then it's 10 years later, and I'm still beating myself up over them. Your memory is the way it is to protect you. I feel like it hasn't protected me."
SOURCE: Aditya Chakrabortty reporting in the Guardian.
PETTY WITTER SAYS: *Anyone care to explain this to me? Obviously not something I've picked up on.
I'm with AJ on this one, your memory is indeed the way it is to protect you. How many of us have never said or done something and wished they hadn't? I'm a great one for beating myself up about things months, even years later, but can't imagine what it must be like to be remember every little thing for ever.
Where do you stand on the subject?