Mayer-Schönberger and Forgetting – Long posts

Mayer-Schönberger and Forgetting

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A couple months ago I wanted to prepare a somewhat scholastic lecture about privacy, the modern Internet, distance in media gatekeepers, a lot of interrelated topics. I was struggling to find concise and useful ways to talk about the ways I felt towards modern media.

To prepare, I read Jaron Lanier's You Are Not a Gadget again, and looking for more resources. I found a couple more books - one of them is a book I've been reading called Delete, by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger.

As I read, I have been live-posting to Pnut with the tag #schoenberger: (I should've used #schönberger!)

I actually can't speak very well to the book... It's so far hard to read. It's easy language to read, it just feels like it doesn't have much to say. I feel like it is framing things around the brain as if there were no argument either way. It is making claims about its own objectivity; this is how the body works, not how "I feel about things".

Despite that misgiving, the book has succeeded in changing how I think about the brain's memory. My posts reflect that: It's not a memory bank that you can take individual files from, it's a pool that you can dip a cup into. Even if you dump the cup of memory back into the pool, the waves reorganize the pool, and some of the water will still stay in your cup—and some of the microplastics, oil from your hand, whatever the cup involved—will go into the pool.

I am convinced that our memories are maintained largely by reinforcement, convincing ourselves that we have sanity, clarity, and conviction that our memories are like data files, objective and graspable.

This hasn't given me a great tool for talking about media, yet. It's a footnote in the conversation. I might be able to build something off of it (hey, hopefully this book does!), but for now it gives me respect and trepidation towards our brainz.

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I'm to #schoenberger's conclusions, and I'm quite disappointed. His primary suggestion is that law, technology, and social change improve society's handling of privacy and how we "forget" things digitally.
But his solution is to involve expiration dates for files, to the extent that digital cameras will detect devices people in the frame have on their person, and determine its picture's expiration date based on NFC/bluetooth settings on the devices, e.g..
This is an interesting brainstorming idea, but totally impractical. He goes on to suggest AI can help delete things in a more brain-like way, so it's more natural or something.
He convinced me of the problem space and its subtleties, but this as an actual solution is impractical, laughably so. He thinks expiration dates in the files themselves/OSes would require the least amount of law and social change, for the improvements.
We should be *empowered* by technology, and its unnatural way of remembering things unchronologically, unimpeded, is one of its most remarkable functions. The problem space is the socialization of these unforgotten things. Meh.
The cost of storage is too low for people to significantly choose to expire things.
And enforcing whom needs permission for what… not to mention it still needing a constitutional amendment to get any traction.
I thought he would end by saying "of course this is all pie in the sky..."
I do like #schoenberger's line that digital memory shifts power towards observers (gatekeepers, cops, judges, tech companies, whomever) over observed. This gives us checks on celebrities sometimes, but we're all at risk.
And implies the dangerous potential for, e.g., body cams. More checks on cops, maybe, but depends who controls the data. Less privacy, without strong guarantees.

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