Offloading Human Memory to the Cloud

Posted on May 31, 2010. Filed under: startups, venture capital | Tags: , , |

When I was young, my parents had two large brown photo albums that sat on our coffee table.  We used to sit together and page through them, and they would point to washed out photos of my great aunts and uncles, and grandparents, and tell me who they were, what they were like, etc…we’d look at images of my 5 year old birthday parties and they’d ask “do you remember Hella? She was your Au Pair from Denmark?”  Needless to say, the depth of perspective I was able to glean around my own early life and the past lives of my relatives was limited.  The legacy of my grandpa, who I never met, is locked in paper documents now gone, my parents’ memories (now going), and scattered photographs and letters that have been stored through the years.

I think about what my grandkids are going to be able to see into my life and in many ways they will know me on a level that is impossible for me to know my own.  The emergence of “life-logging” that has occurred over the last 10 years, across mediums, has begun to create a pretty comprehensive window into my existence.  If you were to chronologically map my Facebook status updates, twitter updates, digital photos, blog posts, foursquare checkins, text messages, emails, venmo transactions, credit card statements, and then very importantly, do the same thing for everyone in my social graph and find the points of intersection between my footprint and those in my 1st degree social graph (which will happen, btw), you could write a pretty cohesive textual narrative of my existence.  Almost an automated biography of who I was, what I did, what I cared about, who I liked, who I loved, where we went, what we did together, how I looked, what clothes I wore, who influenced me, who I influenced, my major accomplishments, my major failures, what made me special, how other people felt about me, what they loved about me, what they hated about me, and pretty much any other question one would ask when trying to get to know someone.

The interesting thing to me is that this shared digital backbone that runs across the human population, currently being enhanced and rapidly populated by the growth of mobile information capture, is not just enhancing the transference of knowledge and learning across geographies and socioeconomies in the present, but also across generations and time.  In many ways, by participating in these forms of life-logging we are enhancing both our individual and collective memories.  This freaks me out a little bit, primarily because of it’s implications around the importance of a physical body/presence [decreasingly fundamental to human experience], but I am absolutely fascinated by it.

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3 Responses to “Offloading Human Memory to the Cloud”

RSS Feed for Jordan Cooper's Blog: startups, venture capital, etc… Comments RSS Feed

One new webapp trying to accomplish what you outline here is Worth a look.

thanks for the link…interesting…

I think this is a very fascinating way of looking at the development of posting content online and one that I haven’t really considered. Twitter, blogs, commenting, FB, etc. have created perhaps the most efficient way to build new relationships and maintain current ones. A tremendous signal to noise problem has arisen though with more people posting more content. It has become increasingly harder to find the interesting stuff among a lot of uninteresting, useless information. It seems to me that this problem is the result of people trying to fill the silence (of which I am also guilty). A focus on quantity over quality. The vast majority of what is posted is of little to no interest to those reading it. However, looking at posting content not exclusively from the perspective of the audience but also from the perspective of the author in terms of creating a biography is a very powerful insight. The minutiae that people post is then no longer irrelevant but another important piece in their stories.

There are probably some very interesting ways these timelines could be collected and displayed but the main hurdle I think a company would face doing this is creating enough traction that users would feel confident their “biographies” are not in jeopardy of disappearing if the company goes under. I think these timelimes could become as valuable to people as their home videos and photos.

Thank you for the thought provoking post and for being continually on the “signal” side of things.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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