10/08/2005

Greg Yardley: Web 2.0 - Attention Trust - Because I'm afraid of forgetting..

Attention Trust has had the innovative idea of taking control of the "where you surf" data (the click stream data gathered sneakily by spyware) to the person who does the clicking, i.e. you. You decide what to do with it: delete it, sell it, give it away (to Amazon.com for instance, so that they suggest books you may like), etc.. But what really caught my attention was one of the reasons computer guru Greg Yardley gave for helping with the effort:

I am also running the Attention Recorder because I'm afraid of forgetting. When I studied Russian history, some time ago, I was struck by just how little remained of people, only a few centuries after their deaths. Only scraps of documentation survive, if any; many individuals have simply ceased to exist. Provided I take care of the data, the Attention Recorder can serve as a record of me, allowing future generations to reconstruct how I thought and when I thought it. Perhaps I'll be a good Master's thesis a couple of centuries down the road. Or – more importantly – perhaps I'll still be around in a couple of centuries. Ray Kurzweill raises the possibility in his The Singularity is Near, a book that’s been on my mind recently – and in case he's right, and my lifespan is dramatically longer than my ancestors', I want to make sure I remember who I am and where I came from in the centuries ahead. I wish I could record it all; what I see, what I hear, what I feel. I can’t, yet, although I'm confident I'll be able to someday, and I'm hopeful I'll be able to make use of those recorded surroundings some day after that. For now, my clickstream is a good start.

The reason it caught my attention was two-fold: First the poignant argument for never forgetting those who lived before us (and ourselves), a dream of permanency and remembrance that has been on people's dreams for millennia and produced such wonders as the pyramids, the Coliseum, books, etc..

Second, the hope, almost a definite expectation Yardley express of being alive in a couple of centuries. Has he not heard of Avian Flu, Peak Oil, War in the Middle East, AIDS, Ozone layer meltdown, Global Warming, etc.. ? It seems he is still living in the optimistic 70's and 80's, when technology brough only good, everything would be possible and science would have the answers to all our woes... It's funny how a brilliant scientist can be so oblivious to all the damaging evidence that we are at the height of our culture's evolution, having only downhill to go from here. I call him a scientist for he is one, although his field - computers - is far removed from nature. Perhaps therein lies the reason of his distance from the reality I and others agonize so much about: his work requires so much abstraction from real life that he just doesn't see the new dark ages coming. I envy him and wish he and Attention Trust succeed, for in 100 years all we may have from most of what the 20th century exuberance produced is fond memories and clickstream printouts to remind us of what was... -- law


Greg Yardley's Internet Blog; Web 2.0 - Attention Trust Board Meeting

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