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Lifelogging is dead (for now)

Mike Elgan | April 5, 2016
A funny thing happened on the road to capturing everything: Hardware failed to keep up, and social media made it redundant.

The closest thing we have is an application called (formerly known as SocialSafe), which collects all that social media oversharing and enables it to be used for something like lifelogging. (Bell is an adviser to and investor in works on the freemium model, costing either nothing or $6.99, $16.99 or $27.99 a year, depending on how many features you need and how many accounts you have. Of course, the vast majority of social media users have no interest in Either social media itself is enough of a lifelog, or they don't care about total recall.

Either way, lifelogging is in a weird place right now. More data is being generated than ever before, but it's hard to bring it all together and hardly anybody wants to.

Remembering to forget

Another problem, which Bell didn't mention, is that the public appears to be suffering from data fatigue. It seems that the people working hard to forget things outnumber the people who are trying to remember things.

Everybody slams email, which remembers everything and lets you do detailed searches going back years, and praises more ephemeral alternatives, such as messaging or texting.

Millions of people have left Facebook in recent years, only to move to Snapchat or other services -- meaning they moved from a social site that remembers to one that forgets.

I believe this apparent impulse to forget is not what it seems. In reality, people are just suffering from information overload and data anxiety. Collecting huge amounts of personal data -- even large numbers of pictures -- simply creates a problem without solving one. The problem it creates is: How do you manage all this data? How do you back it up? Store it? Annotate or tag it?

Email is a perfect example. Email's bad reputation is the result of inboxes out of control, and the horrible feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety they produce. People want to flee the overload.

How the future will save lifelogging

As Bell points out, the future will probably bring us massive storage in small form factors and at low cost. Battery improvements will enable cameras that never stop taking photos and can run all day.

Above all, the revolution in artificial intelligence should be able to eventually organize all our captured data, freeing us from the dread of information overload and the need to manage huge data sets.

We'll interact with our data using future versions of Siri-like virtual assistants. Instead of searching through terabytes of data, we'll simply ask our assistant: "Hey, what was the name of that restaurant I enjoyed in London a few years ago?"


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