Remembering how to forget in the Web 2.0 era

November 20, 2009

Amid ongoing debates over the hazards of excessive digital exposure through such Web 2.0 social networking platforms as Facebook and Twitter, a new book by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger extols the virtues of forgetfulness.

Since the emergence of digital technology and global networks, forgetting has become an exception, Mayer-Schonberger writes in “Delete”.

“Forgetting plays a central role in human decision-making,” he argues. “It lets us act in time, cognizant of, but not shackled by, past events.”

Mayer-Schonberger shared his theory on how to fight back against the digital panopticon with Reuters before giving a lecture at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in London.

3 comments

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“Forgetting plays a central role in human decision-making,” he argues. “It lets us act in time, cognizant of, but not shackled by, past events.”

Not quite. If you forget something then by the very nature of forgetting you cannot be cognizant of the past.

Memory is important. Learning the lessons of past mistakes is something we have failed to do for thousands of years. Digital memory makes it easy to review past history and keep the lessons of mistakes past clearly in mind so that they can be accounted for this time around.

More importantly, this new ability to “remember” is vitally important for citizens. It is very easy for leaders and elected officials to gloss over past misdeeds. But now they can be held to account. Digital memory puts power in the hands of individual people and this is a very good thing.

It is true that one can be shackled by fear if one attempts to live in the past. But memory itself is not responsible for fear. Only the human heart and ignorance of the facts bring fear. Memory then serves to shine a light on the road traveled. It helps us to get our bearings on our current position in life. And helps us to define our next starting point for new action.

Posted by Benny Acosta | Report as abusive

[...] Amid ongoing debates over the hazards of excessive digital exposure through such Web 2.0 social networking platforms as Facebook and Twitter, a new book by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger extols the virtues of forgetfulness. Read more at Reuters UK Blogs [...]

Posted by Weekend reading list on social media, business and entrepreneurship by Alex Zagoumenov | Report as abusive

Interesting concept, even though I dont quite agree that “forgetting” is a virtue.
Since it’s easy to find information as and when we want it through Internet, that means we do not have to try our best to memorize. We can free our brain cells to focus on application of information, rather than memorizing the information.
This does not imply “forgetting”. It just means that we utilize our brain cells in other way.

Posted by scheng1 | Report as abusive

[...] has also provided a good write-up, the event was recorded by the RSA, and Mayer Shoenburg was interviewed by Reuters [...]

Posted by Delete, not fade away and radiate? « Innovation Cloud | Report as abusive

Web 2, being an interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration,
How about coming next Web 3.0?

Posted by 37.5Man | Report as abusive