Forget-Me-Not: can a computer remember for you?

Event Info

Fri 7 Jun, 2013 from 10:00am - 12:30pm
1 Plough Place
Cost: Free, Registration Required


On June 7th come to Nesta for a morning of debate, experiment and live demonstrations exploring our relationship with digital memory. Alongside hearing from an expert group of panellists you can further explore by taking part in an experiment exploring how we access and store data, and seeing demonstrations of different approaches to collecting and curating our digital artefacts.

Human memory’s incompleteness is its greatest strength. We filter, connect and prioritise information. We do not store it like a hard drive does. The way we do this varies from person to person: abilities at the extreme ends of the spectrum can be debilitating or brilliant or both. The increase in cognitive services such as mapping and memory aids can fill in some of the gaps. But how will these change our sense of self and how we learn? What could they do for impaired or ageing brains?  

Knowledge has always been distributed between brains, tools and infrastructure. London taxi drivers’ memory centres measurably swell as they learn the city’s layout but those of New York cab drivers and minicab drivers with satnavs don’t. Now reliance on search is changing our memory. Whilst relying on prosthetic memories expands the amount that we can know it also leaves us vulnerable- data we can’t find is lost from history, data we cannot control might be changed: false memories may be implanted or product placement slipped in. Will our shared photographs become permanent, public evidence and surveillance culture spread? Who owns this information? Do we have the right to be forgotten?

How will we support those whose memories are failing? Will we look through Google Glass at our grandchildren’s faces surrounded by a shimmer of their status updates, health information, highlights of their school reports, prompts for caring questions and algorithmically chosen presents? How far will this go? Will it remind us of names and cue us on who we love? When do supportive technologies entail homogenisation or even coercionTotal recall and resurrection are already in development. Is it true that one day only the poor will forget, age, and die?

Join us and our specialist panel on 7th June including Sebastian Groes (Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Roehampton and Memory Network Researcher), Jon Silas (Lecturer in Neuropsychology at the University of Roehampton), Elad Ben Elul (The Album People), Holly Pester (Sound Poet) and Michela Magas (Stromatolite) as we explore the possibilities of a changing understanding of ourselves and our memories in a digital age.