Author Viktor Mayer-Schönberger on why we need to forget

PUP author Viktor Mayer-Schönberger gave an interesting interview in the Guardian last week.  In it he proposes an idea that most of us would find counter-intuitive: that it is a blessing, rather than a human weakness, to forget.

It is at first tricky to understand–after all, human beings tend to value memory.  Knowledge is made up of memories linked together to form our personal bank of experience, without which we would never be able to learn and innovate.  Throughout history human progress has been based in remembering, the ability to learn from what our forefathers have discovered and built  in order to create something new.  Cave paintings and hieroglyphs were the first images and diagrams preserving human memory for future generations.

Yet Mayer-Schönberger believes that there is such a thing as too much memory.  In our time, the development of digital technology has made the storage and recall of memory an entirely different process.  In his book, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, he outlines what the digital age is doing to human experience.  Rather than being forced to weigh the value of a memory, a piece of knowledge, humans are able to retain it all–but at what cost?  Can one ever forgive a slight if it is stored in an email bank for eternity, never to be forgotten?  Should our memories be shared with the world on sites like Facebook? Is it really best for human beings to have no secrets?  And, nowadays, do we have any other choice?

Mayer-Schönberger notes, “Quite literally, Google knows more about us than we can remember ourselves.” The article provides a fascinating look at the power technology holds over us. Check it out, and pick up Delete to learn more about what solutions Mayer-Schönberger has to offer.