Astute readers are no doubt aware of Gordon Bell’s book “Total Recall” that was reviewed on this site last month. This book, by Viktor Mayer-Shoenberger, should be viewed as a companion piece.

Where Mr. Bell advocated that everyone should record their lives digitally, Mr. Shoenberger’s point of view seems to be “record your life if you must, but tread carefully.”

Several times throughout Delete, the author makes mention of several times in history when archives of data have been used for nefarious purposes, such as Hitler’s using the records of a country to eradicate over 70% of that country’s undesirable population (Jews and everyone else the Nazi’s didn’t like).

While Mr. Shoenberger never comes right out and says recording your life is a bad idea, he does make several arguments toward the normal setting life has: We’re supposed to forget.

That those who are blessed (some would say cursed) with never being able to forget are outliers, their unhappiness in life is because they’re unable to do something nature demands: To forget and move on.

If you’ve read Mr. Bell’s book, you must read Mr. Shoenberger’s just so you can see several sides of the same story.

Princeton University Press page for this book.


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