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Photographic memory made easy

Mike Elgan | Jan. 26, 2016
Lifelogging used to be an obscure area of geek research. Now you're doing it every day. Here's how to lifelog even better.

This photo of Narrative co-founder and CMO Oskar Kalmaru, was taken last week in San Francisco using a Narrative Clip 2. (The picture was cropped, but otherwise unmodified.)

Lifelogging is awesome.

Lifelogging is nothing more than the automatic capture and retention of what happens in one's life. This can be accomplished by wearing body cameras to automatically shoot pictures, using sensors to capture biometric data to monitor your location, activity and physical state, or saving every communication you send or receive.

The purpose of lifelogging with photos is, quite literally, to use technology to give ourselves a photographic memory. The pictures are prosthetic memory. We're outsourcing part of the job of remembering to cameras and computer storage devices. We're massively upgrading our capacity to remember our own lives and experiences and correcting for the human flaw of false memory.

Naysayers have worried that the privacy of the people captured by lifelogging cameras may be violated. But I believe we each have the right to remember our own experiences.

I've written about lifelogging in this space twice. Six years ago, I introduced the concept to readers. In 2009, it was a bizarre, fringe idea associated with MIT researchers and, most especially, Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell (who reportedly wears two auto-shooting cameras around his neck every day).

Then, almost three years ago, I wrote that the future had arrived. Several consumer products emerged that enabled anyone to do a version of Gordon Bell's experiment by wearing a lifelogging camera. I said in 2013 that lifelogging had become "real" now that anyone could do it. It was "real," but uncommon.

Today I'm back to proclaim that lifelogging has become something of a banality. It's a common practice -- either you or people you know are doing it every day.

The state of the union of cameras and social media

For most of us, taking and posting pictures -- including selfies, food photos, pictures of kids and family-and-friend group shots -- is the main thing we do with phones.

The behavior of both smartphone cameras and smartphone users has rapidly evolved into a lifelogging-like behavioral practice. My iPhone 6S Plus takes 10 photos a second. It has never been easier to take way too many pictures.

Meanwhile, many of us have developed the habit or impulse of snapping a picture of every noteworthy thing we see almost as second nature -- and everyone around us seems OK with that now. I take pictures of just about everything I eat. I take pictures of my hotel room numbers and parking-garage space numbers because it's easier than making an effort to remember.


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