Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Singing beside me in the wilderness

In one of those infuriating lapses that go with being a certain age, we could not remember the other evening the name of the poet who wrote "A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou..." After scraping the tip of my tongue for a few minutes, I turned to the computer (Google is my browser's home page) and by typing "jug thou" brought Omar Khayyam back into consciousness. (Another click and I could have had the entire Rubaiyat.)

And so it is that the Googlized internet arrives just in time to compensate for our withering brain cells. Everything I ever remembered is there to be Googled, plus everything I never remembered. Ten billions pages. The searchable memory of the human race.

With more yet to come.

My great-great-grandchildren will no doubt have tiny video cameras implanted in the middle of their foreheads, like Hindu beauty marks, recording everything that passes before their eyes 24-7, with a sound track too. All of which will be stored digitally, ready for instant playback, and searchable by date, time, GPS coordinates, or keywords -- the whole of a life, not only available to the subjects themselves in their memory-lapsed dotage, but to future generations. "Here's great-great-grandpa on his ninety-first birthday, back in 2027. Look how he dribbles soup on his shirt. Ha, ha."

I think nature knew what it was doing when it allows our memory to fade with age. It is particularly notable that the more unpleasant memories go first, so that every summer past was golden with sunshine, and every child was a model of respectful propriety. And no one, not even grandpa himself, remembers the time he...