The Chronicle Review weighs in on Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger this week.
“I forgot to remember to forget,” Elvis Presley sang in 1955. I know that it was 1955 because I just Googled the title and clicked on the link to the Wikipedia entry for the song.
How cool is that? Not long ago, I would have had to actually remember that Elvis recorded the song as part of his monumental Sun Records sessions that year. Then I would have had to flip through a set of histories of blues and country that sit on the shelf behind me. It might have taken five minutes to do what I did in five seconds. I almost don’t need my own memory any more.
That strikes many of us as a good thing: the costs low, the benefits high. We can be much more efficient and comprehensive now that a teeming collection of documents sits just a few keystrokes away.
But as Viktor Mayer-Schönberger argues convincingly in his book Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age (Princeton University Press, 2009), the costs of such powerful collective memory are often higher than we assume.
Click through to read the rest of Siva Vaidhyanathan’s review of the book.
And if you haven’t had your fill of our digital peril and promise, here is a Q&A with Viktor in this Brazilian paper–accompanied by a fantastic photo.