April 6, 2008

Total Recall and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture plays an important role in corporate knowledge management. EA captures, analyzes, catalogues, and serves up information to end-users. In many cases, where more general KM endeavors fail, User-centric EA succeeds because it is a focused effort, with a clear value proposition for making information useful and usable.

Now, KM is being taken to whole new level. And rather than capturing information with clearly defined users and uses, the aim is total recall.

ComputerWorld, 6 April 2008, reports on an initiative for “storing every life memory in a surrogate [computer] brain.”

“Gordon Bello, a longtime veteran of the IT industry and now principle researcher at Microsoft’s Corp.’s research arm, is developing a way for everyone to remember those special moments. Actually, Bell himself wants to remember—well, everything...he wants the ability to pull up any picture, phone call, e-mail, or conversation any time he wants”

“The nine-year project, called MyLifeBits, has Bell supplementing his own memory by collecting as much information as he can about his life. He’s trying to store a lifetime on his laptop.”

“The effort is about not forgetting, not deleting, and holding onto all the bit of your life. In essence, it’s about immortality.”

What about privacy of your personal information?

It “isn’t about plastering a Myspace or Facebook page with information…[It’s] immensely personal...you will leave a personal legacy—a record of your life [on a personal computer].

And Bell is not discerning, he stores painful memories as he does happy ones; this “would actually let people see who he was as a person.”

Certainly people have strived for eternal life from the time of the first man and woman—Adam and Eve eating of the forbidden apple in their quest for immortality—and since with the search for the “fountain of youth” and other elixirs to prolong life. Similarly, people have sought to live eternal by leaving a legacy—whether great men or nefarious one—from rulers and inventors to conquerors and hate mongers. The desire to influence and be remembered everlasting is as potent as the most parch thirst of man.

Bell has gone to extremes collecting and storing his memories—good and bad—from “every webpage he has ever visited and television shows he has watched…video’s of lectures he’d given, CDs, correspondence and an avalanche of photos…he has also recorded phone conversations, images and audio from conference sessions, and with his e-mail and instant messages.”

In fact, Bell wears a SenseCam around his neck, a digital camera that automatically takes a photo every 30 seconds or whenever someone approaches.

“Bell figures that he could store everything about his life, from start to finish, using a terabyte of storage.”

“In 20 years, digitizing our memories will be standard procedure according to Bell. ‘Its my supplemental memory and brain’. It’s one of my most valuable possessions. It look at this thing and think, ‘My whole life is there.’”

So is that what a human life comes down to—a terabyte of stored information?

While maybe a noble effort at capturing memory, this seems to miss the mark at what a human being is really about. A person is much more than that which can be captured by a photo or sound bite of the external circumstances and events that take place around us. The essence of a person is about the deep challenges that go on inside us. The daily struggles and choices we make through our inner conscience—to chose right from wrong and to sacrifice for our creator, our loved ones, our nation, and our beliefs. Yes, you can see the resulting actions, but you don’t see the internal struggles of heart, mind, and soul.

Also, while capturing every 30 seconds of a person’s life may be sacred to the person whose life is being stored, who else really cares? The high-lights of a person’s life are a lesson for others, the minutia of their day are personal for their growth and reckoning.

From a User-centric EA perspective, I believe we should focus KM initiatives for both organizations and individuals from being a wholesale data dump to being truly meaningful endeavors that have a clarity or purpose and a dignity of the human beings being recorded.


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