So How Good Is Your Memory, Really?

Privacy vs Memory in The Age of Data Collection

So How Good Is Your Memory, Really?
“A person holding a family portrait of a grandfather in a photo album” by Lindy Baker on Unsplash

I’m in Vancouver, killing a couple of days before a flight.

I lived here for a good number of years, a decade or so ago, and wandering through my old stomping grounds has brought up all manner of memories.

Memories of people, places, and experiences I haven’t thought about in years have, on these walks come roaring back, more often than not bringing a smile to my face.

Without being present, without being physically in Vancouver and standing in front of these locations, it’s unlikely these memories would have surfaced.

All of this got me thinking again about the collection and logging of our personal data.

Is giving up some privacy not also a better way to counter our minds fallibility?

My memory at 42 isn’t what it once was. Almost daily I’m having conversations that have me grasping at straws for the name of so and so, or the location of that place we went to that time.

More futile grasping than razor-sharp recollection.

Forgetting things is the natural progression of life; the brain gets full, it loses some of its elasticity and these memories of ours, at times, fade into obscurity.

I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to forget the good times.

You know what doesn’t forget? My devices. My apps. The platforms I’ve chosen to give my information.

There has to be some value to this data collection when it comes to reminding us of things.

Foursquare will regularly tell me how many times I’ve been to a location. The “Your Timeline” feature in Google Maps tracks all the places I’ve been, sorted by day. Facebook has “On This Day,” all powered by my history and the data created by my travels.

None of these are comprehensive enough for genuinely augmenting memory, but the information is there, and that is the hard part.

At what point will I be able to ask some system to show me a complete collection of memories with my brother? Everywhere we went, what we did together and all the content created from those activities?

When can I ask to be shown all the times I went to a particular restaurant, bar or attraction, who was there with me and when?

There isn’t a great interface for accessing this information, yet, but that doesn’t mean that collecting the data is inherently evil. Not when, put into the right context, it would be so valuable to us all.

How do you remember your favorite moments?

Further Reading

How Much is Your Privacy Worth To You?
I’m Betting it is Less Than You Think

If you’d like to weigh in what I’ve written, shoot the shit or if I can help out in any way with writing words or helping refine your product or technology strategy, drop me a line: or find me on Twitter.

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