Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age

By Viktor Mayer-Schönberger | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
Conclusions

As humans we do not travel ignorantly through time. With our capacity to remember, we are able to compare, to learn, and to experience time as change. Equally important is our ability to forget, to unburden ourselves from the shackles of our past, and to live in the present. For millennia, the relationship between remembering and forgetting remained clear. Remembering was hard and costly, and humans had to choose deliberately what to remember. The default was to forget. In the digital age, in what is perhaps the most fundamental change for humans since our humble beginnings, that balance of remembering and forgetting has become inverted. Committing information to digital memory has become the default, and forgetting the exception.

Digitization has made possible plummeting storage costs, easy information retrieval, as well as global access to digital memory. For the first time in human history, this has enabled us to make remembering cheaper and easier than forgetting, to reverse the age-old default. It is easy to see why. In the face of our own of en failing human memory, wouldn't we all opt for total recall? Wouldn't we all want to preserve our thoughts and impressions for posterity? And so we find ourselves in a

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