My Life In A Terabyte

from the mylifebits-again dept

We’ve talked about Microsoft’s “mylifebits” project before, and its attempt to build a system that records everything that happens to you, every day. I’ve joked that if you’re recording everything that happens, when would you have time to play it all back? However, the pack-rat in me certainly finds some aspect of the idea appealing. This new article looks at the project and how the combination of our increasingly digital lifestyle and the rapid decrease in storage pricing (with corresponding increase in capacity) are making it possible. My question, though, is who is going to provide the “Google-like” technology to make this all searchable? Having all that data backed up isn’t going to be at all useful if you can’t track down the important point. I also wonder how it would change how people interact. When everything you say and do in front of someone else is going to be recorded, do you change your actions? Furthermore, would people’s natural memory abilities deteriorate? If you really could Google your backup brain, you might not put as much emphasis on actually remembering things yourself. As a simple example of this, I no longer remember phone numbers (something I used to be quite good at), since they’re all easily stored in my mobile phone. Imagine that on a much larger scale, and then think about the implications if that data is somehow lost.

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Comments on “My Life In A Terabyte”

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Bob Bechtel says:

Answers to your questions

As to “who’s going to make the Google for this”, the answer is apparently groups working under contract to DARPA. There is an open solicitation (published 7 May 2003) for something called “LifeLog”. From the notice – “…an ontology-based (sub)system that captures, stores, and makes accessible the flow of one person’s experience in and interactions with the world in order to support a broad spectrum of associates/assistants and other system capabilities. The objective of this ‘LifeLog’ concept is to be able to trace the ‘threads’ of an individual’s life in terms of events, states, and relationships. Functionally, the LifeLog (sub)system consists of three components: data capture and storage, representation and abstraction, and data access and user interface.”
I’d guess that Microsoft Research is a likely candidate for funding, especially given that proposals are due (for initial round funding) by 23 June.
There’s also a seemingly related SBIR (small business innovation research) topic, also from DARPA, titled “MyDay Personal Data Capture System.” This focuses exclusively on capture and storage, with no (immediate) requirement for further processing. The limitation is probably appropriate, since SBIR funding is limited to 100K (Phase 1) + 750K (Phase 2).
Cool stuff. Privacy/security issues abound, to say nothing of the core inference functionality needed. I don’t know that robotics and situated cognition researchers have a solution to extract ‘threads’ from the relatively impoverished sensory environment of today’s robots, let alone the data wave implied by this concept. Oh, did I mention that it’s (only) an 18 month effort, including an experimental (full system functioning) trip to Washington, D.C.?

Erik de Vries (user link) says:

I can't wait for this sort of thing to come into b

We are, if nothing else, the sum total of our experiences, and while our brains are wonderful at performing many tasks, they at times have difficulty storing everything we experience. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a storage media where we could save relevant data? I would like to see something about the size of a pda which has a camera for still pictures, a clock and GPS function, hooked to a database which stores local map information and etc.

How many times have people sat down with a photo album, and again begun remembering experiences which were til then forgotten? Apply this to every day tasks, and boring tasks such as comparison shopping, remembering details related to work, school or such would be greatly enhanced.

The security aspects of the concept do need to be addressed however. I don’t think I’d want much of the information out in the public, and perhaps laws protecting “personal information” need to be passed before this concept will work properly.

Still…. It’s a wonderful idea.

Maybeitsme says:

Re: I can't wait for this sort of thing to come in

Maybe its just me, but I guess my memory must be a hell of a lot better than most peoples. I really don’t need a damn PDA to remember things like comparsion shopping details or work-related details.

I mean, that’s just getting damn lazy. If you need to remember stuff for work, use a pen and paper! If you can’t remember the price of a can of beans, maybe its really *not* that big a deal.

Let’s face it – memory is like a muscle. You need to work on it to improve it. Sit down with those photo books more often.

Seriously though – I look back through my dayplanner, especially stuff from the previous years, and 95% of it is a WASTE. And THAT’s the MOST IMPORTANT stuff I need. I once lost my hard drive, and 6 months of material that I saved – articles and tidbits of info shoved into files – and guess what? I didn’t miss a damn thing.

And trust me – I design websites, which are generally based around information retrieval. People already gather too much info right now that they can’t turn into useful, ACTIONABLE data.

Erik de Vries says:

Re: Re: I can't wait for this sort of thing to come in

Sure. Maybe you enjoy having your life go by, a day at a time with little or nothing saved for later reflection.

When this technology is perfected, and is being used for things we haven’t even thought of yet, your reliance on self will be as effective in that society as an Alzheimer?s patient is in this one.

Duffman says:

Interesting, but somewhat scary

I think that Mike’s last comments are something that has been stirring in the back of my mind for a while. Even though I recently remarked to a friend that a single device that records experiences would be fantastic (not just sights or sounds or both, but everything), I think that reliance on it would become inevitable. This could be good or bad.

However, in a simpler technology sort of way, it’s not that different from now, and really, in some ways, it’s just a better organized (and centralized) method than now (to paraphrase the article). Instead of little pieces of paper and photographs stored every- and anywhere (which, in terms of losses, are just as easily destroyed in a house fire as bits are after a crash), it’s all in one place.

I think I just debated myself, and I don’t know who won.

And I don’t even want to think about the security implications and necessities. If identity theft is growing as it is today with what’s available, there would certainly have to be a shift in emphasis, which would come as soon as the first person had their whole life stolen and sold or lived or reproduced.

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