March 27, 2007
My father died a month ago, after a difficult 5 months of brain injury, coma, a stroke, further brain damage, and a few bouts with MRSA. This has been one of the most difficult situations I have ever had to cope with, and the experience still feels largely undigested.
Now that my dad is gone, I have been thinking a lot about memory. Specifically – all that i have left of him now are memories, padded with photographs, words, stories. Suddenly I am distrusting my memory, it seems so ephemeral, like trying to catch bits of a dream in the morning, and not very persistant at all.
This feeling, coupled with being in Johannesburg with very little internet access and a great sense of dislocation from the world and the web, has made me think a lot about how I am locating some of my memory more and more online. I don’t just mean having firefox remember logins for me, I mean that it seems so much easier to just google something than it is to hold that information at the forefront of my brain. I’ve let my phone remember all contact numbers for a few years now. I’ve thought about dystopian situations where humans have to rely exclusively on their machines in order to remember anything at all – even our own names …
Kevin Kelly of Wired said in 2005 that “…What will most surprise us is how dependent we will be on what the Machine knows – about us and about what we want to know. … The more we teach this megacomputer, the more it will assume responsibility for our knowing. It will become our memory. Then it will become our identity. In 2015 many people, when divorced from the Machine, won’t feel like themselves – as if they’ve had a lobotomy.”
I assume that by Machine, Kelly meant the web?