MyLifeBits – storing every moment of your life

December 13, 2011

Do you remember what your grandmother gave you for Christmas three years ago? Or that great joke your colleague told you the other day? Do you remember the look on your husband’s face when your daughter said her first word? The 73-year old Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell wants to help himself and others remember those life moments that inevitably slip away. To do this, he began a life-logging experiment using his custom-designed software MyLifeBits.

Memory makes life richer
Gordon Bell wants to remember everything. Because, according to him, “memory makes life richer”. This is why he started the MyLifeBits experiment and stored everything on his computer – he wanted to have his whole life in cyberspace: “This is my cyber life, I can retrieve everything I ever heard, seen or done forever. He began the experiment in 1999 by scanning all of his documents, books, and memos, and today Gordon Bell continues to record all his conversations, phone calls, emails, faxes, and paper documents – every single interaction he has. The radical change in his experiment came in 2003 when he started wearing the SenseCam around his neck. The digital camera takes pictures about every 30 seconds and records sound non-stop. The camera takes photos automatically without user intervention while it’s being worn, whenever it detects that the user wants to take a photograph.

Bell’s goal was to go “paperless”, and today he saves about a gigabyte a month. He stated in 2009 that he had 50,000 family photos and hadn’t deleted an email in 5 years.
The idea for Bell is to be able to record and recall entire past, in other words to be able to recall a memory. Using computers to remember, Bell says, will free our minds for more creative thinking.

MyLifeBits has helped Bell in many situations. In an interview with Fast Company, he for instance, describes a conversation with his doctor where he had not entirely understood some technical terms. He was able to retrieve the phone call and listen to it again to better understand the meaning of the message. Another example is when one of his friends passed away, he was able to retrieve a 20-year old correspondence and then use if for the eulogy. Bell also released a book about his experiment called Total recall. The book describes the vision and implications for a personal, lifetime e-memory for recall, work, health, education, and immortality.

Gordon Bell’s experiment is a curious and fascinating one. But what many of us do not realize is that we are all life-loggers. We record our lives when we upload a photo on Instagram or Facebook, post a Tweet, monitor our run, or make a Skype call.

What do you think of Gordon Bell’s experiment? Do you agree that it can help free your mind for more creative thinking?

Photorights : Fast Company


Susie Felber

Susie is a writer and producer who has worked in nearly every medium. As the daughter of a hard-working M.D., she's had a lifelong interest in health and is proud that she continues to lower her 5k time as she ages.
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