Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything

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What if you could remember everything? Soon, if you choose, you will be able to conveniently and affordably record your whole life in minute detail. You would have Total Recall. Authors Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell draw on experience from their MyLifeBits project at Microsoft Research to explain the ...

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What if you could remember everything? Soon, if you choose, you will be able to conveniently and affordably record your whole life in minute detail. You would have Total Recall. Authors Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell draw on experience from their MyLifeBits project at Microsoft Research to explain the benefits to come from an earth-shaking and inevitable increase in electronic memories. In 1998 they began using Bell, a luminary in the computer world, as a test case, attempting to digitally record as much of his life as possible. Photos, letters, and memorabilia were scanned. Everything he did on his computer was captured. He wore an automatic camera, an arm-strap that logged his bio-metrics, and began recording telephone calls. This experiment, and the system created to support it, put them at the center of a movement studying the creation and enjoyment of e-memories.

Since then the three streams of technology feeding the Total Recall revolution— digital recording, digital storage, and digital search, have become gushing torrents. We are capturing so much of our lives now, be it on the date—and location—stamped photos we take with our smart phones or in the continuous records we have of our emails, instant messages, and tweets—not to mention the GPS tracking of our movements many cars and smart phones do automatically. We are storing what we capture either out there in the "cloud" of services such as Facebook or on our very own increasingly massive and cheap hard drives. But the critical technology, and perhaps least understood, is our magical new ability to find the information we want in the mountain of data that is our past. And not just Google it, but data mine it so that, say, we can chart how much exercise we have been doing in the last four weeks in comparison with what we did four years ago. In health, education, work life, and our personal lives, the Total Recall revolution is going to change everything. As Bell and Gemmell show, it has already begun.

Total Recall provides a glimpse of the near future. Imagine heart monitors woven into your clothes and tiny wearable audio and visual recorders automatically capturing what you see and hear. Imagine being able to summon up the e-memories of your great grandfather and his avatar giving you advice about whether or not to go to college, accept that job offer, or get married. The range of potential insights is truly awesome. But Bell and Gemmell also show how you can begin to take better advantage of this new technology right now. From how to navigate the serious questions of privacy and serious problem of application compatibility to what kind of startups Bell is willing to invest in and which scanner he prefers, this is a book about a turning point in human knowledge as well as an immediate and practical guide.

Total Recall is a technological revolution that will accomplish nothing less than a transformation in the way humans think about the meaning of their lives. "What would happen if we could instantly access all the information we were exposed to throughout our lives?" -Bill Gates, from the Foreword

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In 1998, Microsoft computer scientists Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmel began a herculean attempt to record Bell's entire life digitally. Not only did they document every particle of his ongoing existence; they also incorporated a digital record of his past, including letters, records, photos, and memorabilia. Not surprisingly, their monumental, technologically sophisticated project attracted widespread media attention on- and offline. Total Recall not only recapitulates the wide parameters of MyLifeBits; it also explains the very real implications of digital memory breakthroughs that in coming years will affect every aspect of human health, history, and behavior.
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

At Microsoft, computer science pioneer Bell has worked with senior researcher Gemmell for years on a project called True Recall, which will allow people to create a "digital diary or e-memory continuously," something they predict will "change what it means to be human" as fundamentally as language development and the invention of writing. Based upon further development and integration of three already-extant technology streams (digital recording devices, memory storage and search engines), the authors have worked toward this "third step" in the development of human memory for a decade and a half. A number of issues will need to be addressed, including privacy; the authors distinguish between being a "life logger," with privately stored digital records, and a "life blogger," whose web posts are accessible to others (like friends or coworkers). Bell and Gemmell outline the tests they've run since 2001, scanning and then cataloguing for retrieval a mass of personal data (documents, photographs, books and articles, web pages visited, instant messages, telephone calls) and wearing miniature cameras that sense light shifts and take automatic photographs. Readers will be wondering about the consequences of "recalling everything you once knew" long after they put down this fascinating text, of particular interest to techies, but clearly written for general readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
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 beingrecorded all the time. Proclamations of the next digital revolution are plentiful, but this cheerful description of another is persuasive and intriguing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440771828
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 3/15/2010

Meet the Author

GORDON BELL, one of the world’s preeminent computer scientists, is a principal researcher at Microsoft. He lives in San Francisco and Sydney, Australia.
JIM GEMMELL, senior researcher at Microsoft, has been working with Bell since 1995. He lives in San Francisco.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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