MyLife'sBitsIn a memorable illustrated essay posted last night, Branko Collin shows Russia in the early 20th century as seen through the lens of a new technology.

So what technologies of today might give future generations the same excitement that wells up within us from the color photography of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii? I’d welcome the opinions of TeleBlog readers.

One possibility might be the MyLifeBit project of computer pioneer Gordon Bell, now a researcher at Microsoft. Here’s an excerpt from Oliver Usher–a contributor to Variety, a student magazine at Cambridge University, writing about the collage of mini images above:

Everything you see, it sees and saves. Everyone you meet is photographed and stored. Everything you read, hear and write gets stored in its searchable database. To Microsoft, this is a valuable tool, a searchable diary that stores all the information you might ever need to recall. To others–even some of the programmers working on the project–it could herald a brave new world where we sacrifice all privacy to the God of convenience.

It all started seven years ago when Bell, now 71, was asked to participate in the “million book” project to create a huge library of electronic books. Bell agreed, and soon he was busy scanning in his book collection. But he didn’t stop there.” I decided to scan my papers at that time, as well as more content,” he explains. “From there, I realised that I was on a quest to capture everything that the computer could encode.”

Over the next few years, he digitised every bit of paper that passed through his home and office–articles, letters, faxes, even his medical records and prescriptions. Soon, the sheer number of documents he was storing on his computer was becoming unmanageable, and Microsoft’s management, sensing a possible business opportunity, stepped in: MyLifeBits was born.

Yes, I share the same privacy concerns that others have raised about the project. I’ll also keep in mind that MyLife’s technology is like the composite of the mini images and other content–significant for what it brings together, as opposed to something original in the usual sense of the word. I don’t know if MyLifeBits in its present form will impress the denizens of the late 21st century as much Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii’s photograph intrigued me, not when we’re on the cusp of cyborgish marvels. But if nothing else, MyLifeBits may seem to future generations to have been a good start on something that may actually be rather commonplace to them.

Related: PIM articles from the ACM, in Knowledge Jolts with Jack.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail