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Remember to forget!
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Written by Daniel   
Wednesday, 09 May 2007 12:32
Escaping the data panopticon: Prof says computers must learn to "forget"
ARS Technica
By Nate Anderson | Published: May 09, 2007 - 08:52AM CT

The rise of fast processors and cheap storage means that remembering, once incredibly difficult for humans, has become simple. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, a professor in Harvard's JFK School of Government, argues that this shift has been bad for society, and he calls instead for a new era of "forgetfulness."

Mayer-Schönberger lays out his idea in a faculty research working paper called "Useful Void: The Art of Forgetting in the Age of Ubiquitous Computing," where he describes his plan as reinstating "the default of forgetting our societies have experienced for millennia."

Why would we want our machines to "forget"? Mayer-Schönberger suggests that we are creating a Benthamist panopticon by archiving so many bits of knowledge for so long. The accumulated weight of stored Google searches, thousands of family photographs, millions of books, credit bureau information, air travel reservations, massive government databases, archived e-mail, etc., can actually be a detriment to speech and action, he argues.

"If whatever we do can be held against us years later, if all our impulsive comments are preserved, they can easily be combined into a composite picture of ourselves," he writes in the paper. "Afraid how our words and actions may be perceived years later and taken out of context, the lack of forgetting may prompt us to speak less freely and openly."

In other words, it threatens to make us all politicians. More

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