Memories and the proliferation of perfectly recorded imagery

You know that feeling when you wake up with a thought that is interesting, but it has no clear answer. Well this is my saturday morning thought.

Events from the past are stored to varying degrees in our brains. Some we might believe we have perfect memory of, others very fragmented and cloudy. Sometimes we have photographs that help us remember in a more clear way, sometimes diaries. But until recently moving imagery of events in our lives have been extremely sparsely available. And those that we might have, have tended to be somewhat grainy through the deterioration in the original film, and rarely is audio available.

Thus we tend to have a memory of people and past events that are unlikely to match how those events and people seemed to us at that actual time. It is often said of course that time is a great healer, and I suppose with the passing of time in many instances the fragmented memory available to us provides us in many situations with fond memories and a longing for a past time perhaps. Although it must be said if our past memories are of conflict, war, starvation, illness, poverty, then this is unlikely to be the case.

So our past may be constructed by fragmented memories that can be to an extent enhanced by photographs, diairies, grainy film footage, and perhaps music and news of the time. But it remains very much of the past – and the grainy footage, music etc. ensures that it is for us the past.

But now of course, as never before in human history has so much recording – in perfect format – both audio and visual, taken place. We can see (not a pun) with Google Glass, the potential to record vast quantities of our daily lives. And the likelihood is that in the near future such recording mechanisms will become interned within our bodies, so 24/7 recording may take place. And such recording may go past just the sensory perceptions of sight and hearing, to also include touch and smell.

What are the implications of this for us? No longer will we have to rely on faded memory, or old photographs. We will have the perfect recording of the people we daily encounter, their actions, movements, voices. I am sure many sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and whoever else, have already started asking such a question.

Obviously, we may choose not to review the past. But potentially gone will be that hazy past that many of us long for. Perhaps with perfect recall, our longing may increase for a distant time. Whether time travel will ever become a reality who knows, but it could be envisaged that we may via the exploitation of our recorded past be able to embed ourselves in that past, but in doing so not live events as they occurred at that time. So of course with that possibility we open up other questions that we may ask, but I will leave it for another morning’s contemplation.

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