Book Review: Delete

The book reviewed here is ‘Delete’ by Victor Mayer-Schonberger and narrated by Dennis Holland. Holland narrates at a moderate pace and with an upbeat style.  In the book, Mayer-Schonberger argues that the digital age has created a permanent store of memories which now poses a challenge to society. At several points he discusses individual memory in more detail, for instance outlining some of Baddeley’s ideas on how memory works. He compares the permanence of digital memory with the impermanence of biological memory and with the impermanence of cultural memory through the ages due to the absence of large-scale methods of storing memories. The large scale methods of storage later appear in the form of books and I was intrigued to hear of the output of scribes in the early middle ages in contrast to the capabilities of the printing press.  Mayer-Schonberger argues that the permanence of memory in the digital world has arrived suddenly:

A world without forgetting is difficult to predict

He provides the audience with some case examples showing how these memories have been problematic but argues speculatively that people will doubt their own memories if presented with ‘perfect’ digital memories of their life, many of which they themselves will have ‘forgotten’. Mayer-Schonberger also argues that our memories are impermanent because we ‘become’ someone different with time, learning from our mistakes. I thought these were perhaps existential themes and it was interesting to see them being considered in relation to the use of information technology.

The essence of Mayer-Schonberger’s argument is that we should have some degree of control over our personal information and he suggests digital rights management as a possible solution which he then further expands upon. He even suggests that such information can be monetised and I was somewhat bemused to think that the concepts of some of the existential philosophers might form the basis for a digital economy.

Going off at a slight tangent, Mayer-Schonberger’s arguments made me consider Jung’s writings on archetypes. If as Jung suggested, we have a collective unconscious that is stored within culture then how would this be affected by the advent of our present age of digital permanence? Would such archetypes, if they exist, be affected by the abundance of cultural memories stored without decay in our digital world? Would they become distilled within the ever expanding cultural heritage that is available on demand, where society is in the process of creating subculture upon subculture?

It would be interesting to see the results of general population-based surveys to see if people would want to manage their personal information in this way and perhaps a small pilot study to see if it is feasible and is capable of producing the expected outcomes. Even if all of this pointed in the right direction there would still be the matter of making it work economically which is obviously an important test of any technology.

Mayer-Schonberger has tackled an important issue in the digital age and it will be interesting to see how things develop in this area.

References

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger. Delete (Unabridged). Audible Inc. Narrated by Dennis Holland. 2009

Index

You can find an index of the site here. The page contains links to all of the articles in the blog in chronological order.

Twitter

You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link

Podcast

You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast).

TAWOP Channel

You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link

Responses

If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk

Disclaimer

The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Delete

  1. Elene Loomer

    I much enjoyed reading this. As long as an article is written out then it is going to attract a readership group. I say this should be rated a 15 on a scale from 1 to 10! I blog some things myself. Is it alright to put a link on my site(

    Like

  2. Pingback: Books Reviewed to Date (Last Updated 7.4.12) « The Amazing World of Psychiatry: A Psychiatry Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s