Saturday, 19 March 2011

How to avoid being caught by Jawas or Deja Vu

This time, I don't need to set the scene. Someone has already done it for me!
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's Star Wars

Now this post could be about maintaining continuity in a narrative arch but let's not go there... Instead, I want to focus on the importance of records as an aid to memory. There are a few people with Eidetic memory who can remember what they did at 9am on October 3rd, 1973*. for the rest of us there but two options;

  1. Not worry ourselves about such trivial nonsense.
  2. Hope that there is some record held somewhere that can tell us, especially if it was really important to know, as in "Where were you at the time of the murder?" important.
So in this scene, we have two droids in the desert. One was built there, the other has visited several times. You would think they already knew their way around wouldn't you? 

Not necessarily. As a society, we are placing more and more of our memory into the care of technology. Cloud computing makes that information available to us from anywhere on a plethora of devices. Our memory is everywhere and that should make it harder to lose. Ask anyone who has ever lost a hard drive that was not backed up and they will tell you all about digital amnesia. Perhaps this would explain what happened to R2-D2 and C3-P0? Or they just got reprogrammed.

The Cloud is meant to avoid this. For the first time in human history, we can capture almost every interaction in minute detail and store it. This can be an absolute blessing for those whose memory is ravaged by disease. If we can retain this virtual memory over time it will be a treasure trove for researchers and historians. I'm certain that 200 years from now an anthropologist will write a paper on Lolcats that will provide a unique insight into the culture of our time.

This amazing ability to capture and store everything comes with a price. Sometimes there are things we would rather not recall with such graphic intensity. The four hours between 10pm and 2am, feeling helpless as the events of September 11 unfolded in my lounge room, courtesy of CNN.  Christchurch, Fukushima, The Boxing Day Tsunami and Haiti would all vie to be top of my list. I mean no disrespect to the victims or survivors but I'm sure they have no desire to relive those events either.

So is there a need to balance the cultural memory so that it is not dominated by such events? I don't think so. As much as I would rather forget them, they form part of the record, just as the memoirs of soldiers who served at Waterloo, Ypres or Gallipoli inform us of those times or the remains of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii provide a window into that time and place. Because even though there is great tragedy here there is also hope and inspiration. Far better to have this than nothing at all.  

This is all rather serious. It needs to be because we may be leaving more behind than any generation before us. We are also placing a great deal of faith in cloud computing keeping that memory safe for future generations.

Back to our scene. Our two droids, with no recollection of having ever been here are about to have an encounter that will set them on a new and exiting journey. Perhaps it is better they don't know what coming...

*I'm pretty sure I was at school assembly, singing the national anthem. (I think it was still God save the Queen)

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