Why Not Record Everything, All the Time?: Page 2

New consumer gadgets let us record pictures, sounds and videos constantly. Is this good or bad?


You Can't Detect What You Can't See: Illuminating the Entire Kill Chain

Posted August 28, 2013

Mike Elgan

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The category leader, called the GoPro Hero3, offers a new "Looping Video." You can set the feature to record at various settings between 5 minutes and 2 hours, and it will continuously record and delete until you press the button, at which time it will capture the most recent footage.


A company called Livescribe sells a $150 product called the Sky WiFi Smartpen. You use it like an ordinary ballpoint pen. However, it uses sensors to capture the movement of the pen, and uploads your notes and drawings to Evernote. It also records sound constantly while it's in use. The software lets you play back your notes in real time, so you can see your notes being written as you hear the recording.

Why Recording Everything Is (Mostly) Good

These products are all new or currently on the fringe of consumer electronics. But as sensors, cameras, microphones and other elements get smaller and cheaper, and as batteries get better, we're going to see the ability to record everything, all the time, built into an increasing number of mainstream consumer electronics products.

Imagine, for example, this feature built into some future version of Google Glass. Instead of having to decide to record pictures, sound and video and then pressing the button, you could press the button afterwards to capture what just happened.

And even more future version might capture everything and upload it into the cloud in real time, with an interface to quickly fast-forward through everything you see and hear.

Is this good or bad? There are two basic arguments.

The most intuitive and popular argument is that ubiquitous recording is bad because it invades everybody's privacy.

But there's also an argument on the other side. And that is: These are my experiences. Why can’t I remember them in my own way?

For example, I think most might forgive someone with an impaired memory if they used lifelogging to record what they see and hear so they could have some help remembering -- essentially outsourcing their own human memory to a gadget.

But you know what? We all have flawed memories. The ability to recall things exists on a broad scale, with the photographic memory people on one end of the spectrum, and amnesia suffers on the other. The rest of us fall somewhere in between, and it gets worse with age.

Why can't we all use digital technology to be like people with great memories? Why can't old people enjoy the ability to remember things like young people can?

My children are grown. And I have noticed that the best memories we all have of my kids' childhoods are the ones we happened to photograph or video. The rest are mostly lost. The reason is that media reinforces our real-life memories and keeps them strong.

Aren't lost memories unnecessary now that we have the technology to keep them?

There's an important distinction to be made between a creepy weirdo who places a hidden camera in the bathroom in order to see what he shouldn't see on the one hand (or a federal government that listens to conversations it shouldn't listen to, for that matter), and someone who augments memory of their own experiences on the other.

People shouldn’t be able to record things they’re not supposed to experience in the first place. But what’s wrong with using technology to remember the events of our own lives?

After all, aren't your experiences yours to remember?

What's the difference between your memories being enhanced by, say, eyeglasses, note-taking or hearing aids -- which are socially acceptable memory augmenting technologies -- and a lifelogging cam?

This is no longer a theoretical question, but the question that will soon confront all of us as these record-everything-all-the-time technologies go mainstream.

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Tags: privacy, Gadgets, records retention, Security Intelligence

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