An enthusiastic account of the near future when we will be able to record every minute of our lives.
Readers may be suspicious that a book introduced by Bill Gates and authored by two of his senior researchers is merely promotional material for a new Microsoft product, but they will come away convinced that the authors are on to something. Bell and Gemmell assert that three streams of technology are nearing a critical mass. First, we are now recording more of our lives with cell phones, PDAs, digital cameras, e-mail, webcams, etc. Second, digital memory will soon be so cheap that everyone will be able to afford to store everything. Third, search technologies far more sophisticated than Google are being developed—by, among others, Microsoft—to retrieve, organize and present immense quantities of data. Within a decade, when these advances are seamlessly integrated, those who choose to “lifelog” will wield awesome powers. They will be able to quickly sort through their “e-memory” for events, conversations, names and numbers, but also patterns of habits, emotional responses, spending, alibis and even physiological data. To illustrate these dazzling possibilities, the authors describe Bell’s campaign since 1998 to digitalize his life. Today’s poorly integrated sensors, scanners, optical character readers and search software make this a tedious process, but readers will share Bell’s pleasure as mountains of paper, files and references vanish to be replaced by instant access to every word or picture, many long-forgotten. Bell concludes with nuts-and-bolts advice on organizing a personal lifelogging program and discusses the thorny privacy and legal issues that will arise when everyone is being recorded all the time.
Proclamations of the next digital revolution are plentiful, but this cheerful description of another is persuasive and intriguing.