Monday, May 23, 2016


I love my mindful existence, which is why I tend to even remember events and people that I should have forgotten for my own well-being.  Yesterday, for instance, I reminded a colleague how he and the rest did not care for my serious proposal when I offered it first twelve years ago--and many times since then--and now, after plenty of Oregon water under the bridge, they want to think about it!  Thankfully, I have selective amnesia, which does let me forget a few events and people ;)

Memories.  As the fellow-traveler in Costa Rica remarked, "when you are lying nearing your death, you cannot take your car or house or clothes.  You have only your memories with you when dying."  I shudder thinking about the huge load that I will be taking with me!  Memory overload it will be ;)

These days, thanks to technology, people think they are creating lots of memories when they take a gazillion photos and share with a gazillion friends via the gazillion social media platforms.  But, are they really memories?  Or is that mindless documentation, like how the paper-pushing clerk in a bureaucracy merely files away papers every single day?

In the old days, when we rarely took photographs, we were later able to recall the emotions of the moments when that was clicked.  A family group photo triggers various memories from that day.  The photo from a trip decades ago practically brings back the smells and sounds of the place. If you were nude sunbathing back in the day, then it was definitely a rare photo, before this age of nude-selfies and sexting.  Every one pretty much knows when those clicks happened.  Heck, we remember plenty that were never even photographed, right?

So, yes, the mere fact that a lot more photographs are being taken now does not mean that more memories are being created.  That is mere documentation.  And it is virtual.  To make things worse, what happens to all those virtual memories?
Every day about 300m digital photographs, more than 100 terabytes’ worth, are uploaded to Facebook. An estimated 204m emails are sent every minute and, with 5bn mobile devices in existence, the generation of new content looks set to continue its rapid growth.  ... Yet we overlook — at our peril — just how unstable and transient much of this information is.
I bet you have experienced that "transient nature" yourself when the site or the link does not exist anymore, or when whatever you had saved a while ago cannot be opened by the new software.  What happens to your "memory" in that case?  Who will take care of it?  What about government memories--as in, say, email conversations?  Will future generations be able to access them, similar to how I am able to access the photos that my parents have?

The more technology keeps developing new things, the more I am inclined to make sure I will have the real, tangible, documentation to augment my memories.  Still, I take comfort--even delight--in the fact that most of my memories are secure in a vault in my brain.  I will take those memories with me in slightly more than two decades.  You can try to make sense of the virtual memories that I will leave behind ;)



Ramesh said...

Oh God - American slang at its worst. What a horrible title for the post. The Queen sends you her sternest disapproval.

Yes indeed ; mere documentation does not make a memory. But just as documentation is transient, memories are also transient. The brain ages too and memories will fade. Perhaps to the good - for, as you say, some amnesia is good.

Let us live the present fully and enjoy every minute of it. Including all the memories we treasure. As for the future, que sera sera.

Sriram Khé said...

What's up with you and the queen???? In case nobody told you, the Raj ended nearly seventy years ago!!! ;)

Yes, it is about living in the here and the now. When people mindlessly click photos and record movies documenting whatever, they more often than not forget that it is about the here and the now. Oh well, to each their own!

As for the future, "K Sriram, Sriram" ;)