Notetaking (and/or what some cringingly call “journaling”) has always been an extraordinarily weighty theme in my day-to-day pursuits. Most of my recognizable value is in thought, which for me has always been unusually fickle. Over the past two years, I’ve come to more clearly recognize an acute obsession with permanence within me — a recurring addiction to archiving, and my ability to serve this obsession has grown exponentially in the past decade. I do not use “obsession” lightly, either: I’ve just recently lugged a small library of barely-used composition notebooks between storage units, and they’ve barely been used because I had a strong childhood habit of buying one on a whim, over-specifying its prospective elements, and subsequently abandoning it after only a few pages out of frustration with my handwriting’s insufficiencies. I tried word processing (then, the exclusive digital alternative) but met with identical — if even less-sensical — results.
Today, I discovered that IFTTT — the handiest easily-accessible tool available for automating cloudcentric tasks — is now integrated with Day One (technically, Day One 2.0…daywontoo) — the gorgeous iOS app I’ve hoped for years would execute such recordkeeping once and for all. Perhaps more practically, I’ve been grooming it to replace Evernote, which has been easing my ever-present neoscrapbooking urges since its beta in 2008.
As of this moment, there are 15,553 “notes” in my account, and every one is available & syncable by the iOS app, desktop application, or web browser at any time. Granted, a large portion are simply Tweets I’ve “liked” — automatically imported at regular intervals from Twitter by a “recipe” I’ve set to run in IFTTT, but thousands still are character concepts, poems, “web clippings,” lecture notes, to do lists, etc.[mks_col][mks_one_half]And that’s the thing… Thanks to the progression of the digital landscape, my ability to serve this obsession has increased exponentially in just a decade; inconceivably moreso than if I would’ve by chance occupied any other period in human history. I distinctly remember when 8GB of flash memory was $50.[/mks_one_half][mks_one_half]The same money will have you well over 100GB, now, and 3.5TB thumb drives were making headlines over a year ago, which is a bit more than my entire setup — including external hard drives in storage — and I’ve got literally years worth of raw video (that I’ll never comb through, in all likelihood.)
According to some tools available from a quick search (which I’ve been unable to find again,) 20 minutes of 1080p video @ 9 Mbps totals about 4GB in size. So, a full day (24 hours) of video would be 96GB. If we assume 3.5TB of flash memory will be accessible in thumb drive-or-smaller packages to the general public in the next…eh…5 years? That’s 36.46 days… over a month of continuous high definition video.
Imagine: a sub 1mm-diameter camera (assuming parallel leaps in photo/video technology) in my glasses, aligned with my sight, and enough flash memory packed in the frames to record every bit of my life. Chances are, you’ve edited or scrubbed through video, so you know that such an endeavor would be utterly hopeless were it not for tandem (and ultra-exciting) developments in AI. Yes, it’d be very silly to browse such gargantuan quantities of video taken from one’s own point of view, but intelligent image identification software could — in theory — tell you just about anything you’d want to know about any given frame. Chuck in that smooth sci fi voice recognition we’re all so desperately waiting for and…
Where did I put my keys? How much was that coffee grinder… the brown one? And was it Target or Sears? That lady in the left turn lane today… which nostril was she picking?
Show me her face when she said “yes.”
Yeah, there was a recent film on Netflix that tossed some very similar subject matter around, but the function of such AI was disappointingly omitted, if I recall, though I could go on and on about its significance long past any relevance.
Take a second to broaden the applications of image identification in particular, though, and consider just how much about our past could be rediscovered. Every frame of every video ever taken, under the scrutiny of an ever-more-capable observer with infinite patience and virtually unlimited attention-to-detail has startling potential to satiate curiosity.
How much do you want?
Subject: V-J Day in Times Square, Alfred Eisenstaedt 1945.
X # of individuals in frame wearing predominantly light-colored clothing
X # of individuals in frame smiling
X # of windows in frame less than or equal to 50% obscured by shades
And it’s all very fun to posit on, isn’t it? Especially for those of us who expect to be alive for such dreamstuff to be realized (chances are, you probably should.) Even now, I find just the comparatively-rudimentary automated processes within my iPhone to be mildly comforting. Never astonishing, really, because I’ve managed to keep enough of an eye on the “edge” over the years to prevent surprises.
But as I watch my new, secondary Day One journal (entitled “Noise”) fill up with a record of virtually every single one of my day-to-day social media interactions, I wonder why. Because I can, easily and cheaply. That’s a primary enabler, yeah? There are more and more such activities every week, it seems. What is a life spent doing so many of them, though? What sort of “legacy” — if the term is still in your vocabulary — can such lackadaisical occupations constitute?
And is the simple capability itself at all important, really, since it will not occur to the vast majority for many years? Are we psychologically capable of making use of such a tremendous quantity of information? Or — more precisely — relevant use? Are we making any sort of preparations for an imminent shift in cognitive retention as a society?
There are those to whom truth is not always wanted or beneficial. What about them? What about the occasionally paranoid-seeming folks you know who are still dedicating significant time and energy to the pursuit of privacy, even now? Is it even reasonable to assume their lifestyle will remain at all feasible?