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Radio Berkman on Forgetting, and Remembering the Media

There are two new-ish Radio Berkman interviews up: Me talking with Viktor Mayer-Schönberger about his book that argues that we are in danger of forgetting how to forget, and Russell Neuman on learning from the past of the media.

3 Responses to “Radio Berkman on Forgetting, and Remembering the Media”

  1. This was a fascinating discussion. In the construction of ourselves we evolve beyond our former selves. The memory of the ‘crimes and misdemeanors’ from my earlier days (too much alcohol consumption at Bucknell Fraternity parties) does not fit into my present self who only drinks an occasional glass of wine when out for dinner. When I told my physician yesterday that I don’t drink, I was speaking of my present self. What if he were able to produce a video of Pledge Night, 1969 to refute my claims. On the other hand, I want a judge to have a complete and comprehensive record of the previous criminal acts of the intruder who broke into my home two weeks ago. And as an author, although I would want a recording and storage of all of my published work, I may not want all of my draft pages open to public view.

    In the construction of our social memory, some private information enters the public domain to create culture which is preserved for the benefit of future generations. Should everything private now be saved just because we have the digital capacity to do so? More importantly then, who decides what will be saved as cultural representation and what will be deleted? This talk emphasized the remembering of private information by the private individual. My first reaction is that I have the right to remember whatever I wish to remember. I may have a limited capacity to remember everything, but this can be enhanced by digital computer “memory”. The human personality “forgets” intentionally and purposefully and this ‘capacity to forget’ may enhance our experience.

    We are also programmed to repress which is a more intentional and perhaps less beneficial capacity. Yet even in the process of repression, the conscious mind places unwanted memories into the unconscious, where they may be retrieved through hypnosis or psychoanalysis. To extend the metaphor, perhaps some information should be digitally repressed to a place where the information can be recovered yet where it is not publicly available. Yet the previous social repression of information by mainstream media is exactly what is being counteracted by digital technology and the proliferation of the internet. When I posted a response to one of your previous blog entries, I was readily able to retrieve Supreme Court documents and even hear an audio recording of the final decision of this case read by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The public availability of some information is essential to a properly functioning democracy. But how much of our private lives should be public?

    Eastern notions of Karma postulate that all our actions and thoughts are recorded in the Akashic field, and the Eastern notion of reincarnation allows memories to be carried from one life to the next. Remembrance and forgetting are capacities of human consciousness. How joyful when I enter the bookstore and hear a song that precipitates a flood of forgotten yet stored memories. How wonderful to wake to the sound of rainfall that brings me back to my tent in Alaska 22 years ago.

    The computer is a machine that can be compared to human consciousness through metaphor, yet the computer is not conscious in the way humans are conscious, even though it can be programmed to remember how to play games like chess. The computer may win the game, but will be unable to celebrate the victory. Computers can not really remember anything, but they can record everything. They can be programmed to perform logical functions and solve mathematical equations but these capabilities tell us more about the mechanistic restrictions of logic and reason than they do about the human capacities of machines. The computer can record, delete, tag, cross-reference, and deduce; but it can never repress, intentionally forget, or unintentionally remember. Human consciousness is a rich and complex interdependence among four functions: thinking, sensing, intuiting, and imagining. Perhaps the ultimate benefit of the digital age and the incredible advances in computer technology will be that such increased rational capacity will once again allow sensing, intuition, and imagination to flourish.

  2. I really like your articles, your composition is very good.

  3. enjoy it


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