Customer Review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking!, 13 Nov. 2009
This review is from: Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age (Hardcover)
When I first heard about this book, I had a look at some of the reviews that are floating around the web. While some seem to wholeheartedly agree with the argument, others take a quite critical stance. At any rate, the book seems to have hit a nerve and stirred up a lot of debate. I cannot think of a better recommendation.

Mayer-Schoenberger is a former Harvard-Professor and long-time information policy expert. His basic argument is that, in the digital age, the default has changed from forgetting to remembering. More and more information is stored for eternity, made accessible through digital infrastructure like search engines and databases.

Some of the consequences he outlines are more or less the ones you would expect: privacy, panopticon, etc. Others struck me as quite fascinating. For example, he tells the story of a woman who leafs through old e-mails. She discovers an exchange with a friend of hers, full of mutual accusations and betrayals. And although this had happened many years ago and the argument had long been settled, she felt the old anger creeping up again. Mayer-Schoenberger uses this little scene to ask a number of important questions: does perfect memory make it harder for us to change over time? Does remembering make us less forgiving as a society?

He then goes on to discuss the pros and cons of a number of possible responses. His own solution is to advocate a "revival of forgetting". One of his - quite creative! - ideas is to call for "expiration dates" for data -- dates after which a data set will not be available anymore. While not a magic bullet, this may definitely be a way of raising awareness and engaging users with the issues.

So until somebody comes up with a "neuraliser" to blank our brains as demonstrated by the Men In Black, this book will remain an essential contribution to the debate. Thought-provoking, timely and important. Five Stars.
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