Memory and Database

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Where We Were When We Started and Where We Are Now.

When Nova and I made our first presentation about memory and database, we focused mainly on the human forms of memory and database drawn from our own personal experiences. As human beings, we can not help but see the world through these human eyes and relate things to our personal experiences. As we continued researching our topic, we found more and more that a majority of the world revolved around the digital form of these ideas. And so we continued down this path even further...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Defining Memory

MEMORY IS..

mentally retaining impressions of past experience

the ability to remember

the ability to take in and store information and retrieve that information for later use.

Philosopher John Sutton proposes that memory is “a label for a diverse set of cognitive capacities by which humans and perhaps other animals retain information and reconstruct past experiences, usually for present purposes.”

STAGES OF HUMAN MEMORY :

Three stages to memory:
1. Acquisition of information, which involves our sensory memory.

Everything we perceive through our senses of sight, taste, smell, hearing, and touch enters our sensory memory.

Example situation: As we stand at the edge of the surf, we feel the sunlight on our face and the sand between our toes, smell the freshness of the air, hear the seagulls crying, and – once we brave the cold water – taste the salt in the ocean, and we know we are at the beach. We feel all these sensations at once, but the images remain in our minds for only a couple of seconds.

2. Short-term memory captures selected information from those sensations and holds that information for a brief time – as short as a half a minute.

We may capture the smell and taste of the salt water but we may not register the sound of the birds.

3. From short-term, it either gets forgotten, or goes to long term.

Two kinds of long-term memory: procedural and declarative.

Procedural memory: memory for skills and procedures, the act of “knowing how” to do something. We use our procedural memory to remember how to swim in the ocean, or how to hold a golf club, operate a can opener, use a keyboard, or drive a car.

Declarative memory
: memory for facts; it is our ability to “know that," unlike procedural memory, it can be “declared” or explained – is again divided into two components.

Declarative is then divided into 2 types of memory: Semantic memory and Episodic memory

Semantic Memory – knowledge for the meaning of words and how to apply them, and our recall of information of the wider world. (allows us to know that a dog is a dog, not a cat; that the ocean we are standing in is the Pacific, not the Atlantic; or that the capitol of Austria is Vienna. We may not remember when we first learned to distinguish cats and dogs, or when we learned the relative locations of different oceans, but we have absorbed and retained the facts.

Episodic Memory –
remembrance of personally experiences events or experiences – episodes in our own lives. Our ability to consciously reflect on our life and recall experiences and emotions from our past.

www.wien2004.ica.org

Early Traces of Memory

Memory can be regarded as a filter (as are our five senses)– it is a device implanted for our survival.

Artificial memory systems have been around for centuries:

"mnemo-technics" - the process or technique of improving or developing the memory.

Early Greeks:
perfected a system of memory that used the mental imprinting of any objects or key points to be remembered onto specific locations along a pathway previously memorized from an actual temple. To recall the points in their proper order, one simply had to take the walk through the temple in one's mind, observing the contents left at each location along the way.

Giulio Camillo created a "Memory Theater" in Italy in the early 1500's.






It is explicitly referred to as a Memory system of the traditional kind, but breaks all kinds of rules.
It reverses the purpose of a theater: the spectator stands on stage and views the seats. An odd choice, since a theater is a repetitive space.
Several images are repeated, but their position is changed to mean something else. The same image can stand for several things
It was a real space: a small wooden theatre, with manuscripts and notes stuffed in the various seats. Is this still memory in the classical rhetorical sense?
Why did Camillo insist on building a memory system? Especially a permanent memory system?
A question Yates does not address: was this theatre intended to be used by anyone? If so, it is the first attempt to generalize a memory system, and to use it to store up ancient learning in an accessible form separate from books.



http://kelty.rice.edu/375/lectures/camillo0212.html

The New Media Reader, "Will there be Condominiums in Data Space?"

Saturday, November 18, 2006

History of Internal Memory Technologies

Examples of the first internal memory technologies used in computers in the early 1950's:



ELECTROSTATIC MEMORY
: Electrostartic storage tubes used in the Whirlwind computer in 1950 held a whopping 256 bits each. The bits were "painted" on the surface of the tube, and their electrostatic charges determined their content.



DELAY LINE MEMORY
: During the late 1940's and early 1950's, the memory in the EDSAC (Electrical Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) and UNIVAC I was made of tubes of liquid mercury that were several feet long. Electrical pulses were converted to sound and back to electrical in a continuous loop. The conversion to sound, which propagates much slower than electricity, slowed down the digital data a fraction of a second and caused the device to funciton as storage.



EDSAC: Developed by Maurice Wilkes at Cambridge University in England and completed in 1949. It was one of the first stored program computers and one of the first to use binary digits. Its memory was 512 36-bit words of liquid mercury delay lines, and its input and output were provided by paper tape. It could do about 700 additions per second and 200 multiplicaitons per second.



MAGNETIC DRUM MEMORY: This type of memory is in the IBM 650 Computer, introduced in 1954. It held two thousand 10-digit words. That much memory today would fit on the head of a pin, and a very thin pin to be sure.




MAGNETIC CORE MEMORY: Two years after the Magnetic Drum Memory, the tubes in the Whirlwind were replaced with magnetic cores, which were much more reliable. The direction of the magnetic energy in the core determined the 0 or 1. These core planes held 256 bits.



12 BITS
: Close up image of the Whirlwind core plane, shows the detail of the wiring between the cores.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Types of Computer Memory

Computer memory- physical and virtual memory

Physical memory refers to the actual chips capable of holding data.

Types of memory
:
RAM: (random access memory): It is possible to read and write into RAM, in comparison to ROM, which is only able to be read the data. RAM requires a steady flow of electricity to maintain its contents, which means as soon as the power is taken away whatever was stored in the RAM is lost.

ROM: (read-only memory): Computers contain a small amount of read only memory necessary to instruct the computer to start.

PROM: (programmable read-only memory): Memory chip on which a program can be stored. Only able to be used once.

EPROM
: (erasable programmable read-only memory): A special type of PROM that has the ability to be erased by exposing it to ultraviolet light.

EEPROM: (electrically erasable programmable read-only memory): Also a special type of PROM, with the ability to be erased when exposed to an electrical charge.

http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/M/memory.html


Computers also use virtual memory.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Artificial Memory Aid

An artificial memory aid that mimics the way the human brain replays verbal information could help people with brain damage, Alzheimer's or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

The handheld device is modelled on a function of the brain known as the "phonological loop", which uses short snippets of acoustic information as a memory cue.

For example, it provides a way to remember a name before writing it down, and is the reason why songs sometimes become stuck in a person's mind.

The memory device has a speaker, a microphone and controls for recording and playing audio. To use it, a user presses 'record' and says a phrase they want to keep in mind.

The aid repeats this phrase at intervals of two minutes or, in another mode, it prompts the user to repeat the phrase at the similar intervals, repeatedly bugging them if they fail to do so.

The brain's phonological loop "records" short clips of speech and uses an inner voice to repeatedly replay them. The phrase might be generated by the brain itself, or by another person in conversation.

http://www.newscientisttech.com/article/dn10424-artificial-memory-aid-mimics-the-brains-audio-cues.html

Artificial Human Memory

The world's first brain prosthesis - an artificial hippocampus.

This silicon chip implant will perform the same processes as the damaged part of the brain it is replacing.

Way to help people who have suffered brain damage due to stroke, epilepsy or Alzheimer's disease.

What does the Hippocampus do?
It "encodes" experiences so they can be stored as long-term memories elsewhere in the brain.

"If you lose your hippocampus you only lose the ability to store new memories," says Berger (Theodore Berger of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.) That offers a relatively simple and safe way to test the device: if someone with the prosthesis regains the ability to store new memories, then it's safe to assume it works.

The inventors of the prosthesis had to overcome three major hurdles:
1). Devise a mathematical model of how the hippocampus performs under all possible conditions.
2). Build that model into a silicon chip.
3). Interface the chip with the brain.

It is not understood how the hippocampus encodes information. So the team simply copied its behavior. Slices of rat hippocampus were stimulated with electrical signals, millions of times over, until they could be sure which electrical input produces a corresponding output. Putting the information from various slices together gave the team a mathematical model of the entire hippocampus.

They then programmed the model onto a chip, which in a human patient would sit on the skull rather than inside the brain. It communicates with the brain through two arrays of electrodes, placed on either side of the damaged area. One records the electrical activity coming in from the rest of the brain, while the other sends appropriate electrical instructions back out to the brain.

The hippocampus can be thought of as a series of similar neural circuits that work in parallel, says Berger, so it should be possible to bypass the damaged region entirely (see graphic).




TESTED ON ANIMALS:
It will first be tested on rats and then monkeys.

ETHICAL CONCERNS:
While trials on monkeys will tell us a lot about the prosthesis's performance, there are some questions that will not be answered.

For example, it is unclear whether we have any control over what we remember. If we do, would brain implants of the future force some people to remember things they would rather forget?

"Forgetting is the most beneficial process we possess," Williams says. It enables us to deal with painful situations without actually reliving them.

Another ethical conundrum concerns consent to being given the prosthesis, says Anderson. The people most in need of it will be those with a damaged hippocampus and a reduced ability to form new memories. "If someone can't form new memories, then to what extent can they give consent to have this implant?"

Saturday, November 11, 2006

MyLifeBits Project


MyLifeBits is a lifetime storage of everything.



It is the fulfillment of Vannevar Bush's 1945 Memex vision including full-text search, text & audio annotations, and hyperlinks.



“A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility” - As We May Think, Vannevar Bush, 1945

There are two parts to MyLifeBits: an experiment in lifetime storage, and a software research effort.

THE EXPERIMENT: Gordon Bell has captured a lifetime's worth of articles, books, cards, CDs, letters, memos, papers, photos, pictures, presentations, home movies, videotaped lectures, and voice recordings and stored them digitally. He is now paperless, and is beginning to capture phone calls, IM transcripts, television, and radio.

GOAL: To push the boundaries of information computers can handle.

This experiment was dreamt up at Microsoft's Bay Area Research Centre in San Francisco, where Dr Bell works. He agreed to become a guinea pig in his own life's experiment. In an era of relationships defined by informal emails, of mobile phones snapping crimes as they unfold, the project was seen as an extension of our desire to store snippets of our existence. By recording his life in the present, Dr Bell hopes to give a glimpse of all our lives in the future.

THE SOFTWARE RESEARCH: Jim Gemmell and Roger Lueder have developed the MyLifeBits software, which leverages SQL server to support: hyperlinks, annotations, reports, saved queries, pivoting, clustering, and fast search. MyLifeBits is designed to make annotation easy, including gang annotation on right click, voice annotation, and web browser integration. It includes tools to record web pages, IM transcripts, radio and television. The MyLifeBits screensaver supports annotation and rating. We are beginning to explore features such as document similarity ranking and faceted classification. We have collaborated with the WWMX team to get a mapped UI, and with the SenseCam team to digest and display SenseCam output.



Gordon Bell is recording as much of his life as modern technology will allow it, storing it all on a vast database.

A miniature camera dangles from his neck and snaps pictures every minute, immediately committing the scene to a memory built not of neurons but ones and noughts. Sensors also note changes in light, shifts in temperature and also store the info.

He has stored so much of his life on his computer that he may very well forget how to remember. “I look at it as a surrogate memory.” If he wants to recall something, he just switches on and sifts through the days and months.


BEGINNING PROCESS:
Scanned virtually all:
Books written (and read when possible)
Personal documents (correspondence including memos and email, bills, legal documents, papers written, …)
Photos
Posters, paintings, photo of things (artifacts, …medals, plaques)
Home movies and videos
CD collection
And, of course, all PC files

SUPPORTING OPINIONS:
Technologist: “we can” an opportunity e.g. 1 TB disks
For all of us with new media: a need e.g. jpg. Mp3
Environmentalist: eliminates “atoms” (paper, CDs…)
For business--memory enhancement & faster search: Let content analysis and data mining discover trends and correlations in our lives…that even we don’t know.
Business: It costs more to delete than it costs to store
Preservationist: decays or disappears unless its saved
For the human pack rat: “I may need it some day.”
For posterity and nostalgia: “Maybe others will want it.”
Stories and ambience: basis for creating content
For the aging & failed memory: surrogate memory

TRICKY DECISION:

While sorting through old files and scanning them in, his assistant found a memo with a stern note urging:
"Do not ever reproduce this."

It was an extremely frank letter purging his thoughts on a company he was involved with at the time. It named names, pointed the finger, ranted. It was never meant to be posted, copied, or seen by anyone other than himself.
"I decided we should put it on the system after all. I still feel the same about it, but it's on there," he says.


QUESTIONS:

If all of our computers will one day store even a minor mountain of detail from our public and private lives, how will we ever be able to organize it?

What software will rummage through our electronic minds for connected events, perhaps a conversation about a picture taken on some seaside trip on a dank day one May?

CONS:

Dr Bell has logged all but a handful of his most personal experiences, those few left out because no computer system is completely secure against a determined hacker. Some of the information held on the database is also of ambiguous ownership.

Who decides who else can pore over the details of the conversations he has had, the people he has met? "I'm not worried about someone going in there and mining my innermost thoughts, but there is the whole issue of security and control that I think we can solve."

The hard drive of his computer crashed, losing four months of data.
In a report on the project, he describes it as "a severe emotional blow, perhaps like having one's memories taken away."

More worrying to Dr Nack is the effect Dr Bell's vision could have on a future society. Stick a video camera in someone's face and they will behave differently. "If everything we do is recorded for scrutiny, it can hinder social development," adds Dr Nack. In short, surveillance of the people, by the people, could lead to an unsettling society of conformists, he warns.

SIMILAR SYSTEMS:
Already, a similar system is being tested by a small group of people with degenerative brain disease in Cambridge. In the evening, the husband of one woman on the trial reviews the recorded day with his wife. It reduces her anxiety that she will forget important moments.

For Dr Bell, MyLifeBits is more of a back-up memory. "There were people walking around New Orleans after Katrina with soggy shoeboxes of things. My whole life moves with me, I don't need to carry these things," he said.

HOW MUCH OF HIS LIFE HAS BEEN RECORDED?





Began in 2001:
Recorded:
1,300 videos
5,067 sound files (including conversations)
42,000 digital pictures
100,000 emails
67,000 webpages.
Recently, the system has started logging every step Mr Bell takes using GPS (Global Positioning Systems) and is beginning to store health data, from calories burned to individual heart beats.

HOW MUCH MEMORY DOES A LIFE NEED?

Microsoft researchers believe that technological advances will ensure one terabyte of memory is enough to store everything except video for 83 years. Many iPods have 20 gigabytes of memory, or one fiftieth of a terabyte. If we recorded video constantly, we would need an extra 200 terabytes of memory.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,3605,1674359,00.html
http://research.microsoft.com/barc/mediapresence/MyLifeBits.aspx

Friday, November 10, 2006

What is a Database?

The word database is commonly used to refer to any of the following:
• your personal address book in a Word document
• a collection of Word documents
• a collection of Excel Spreadsheets
• a very large flat file on which you run some statistical analysis functions
• data collected, maintained, and used in airline reservation
• data used to support the launch of a space shuttle

Yes, these are all some kinds of database. Also the public library catalog is the most known nonelectronic database example. Another simple example is the unsorted pile of papers you might find on your desk. When you need something, you rifle through thestack until you find the scrap of paper you are looking for, it works because the size of database is increadibly small. A stack of paper certainly wouldn’t work for larger set of data, such a collections of library. Of course in the library, without the card catalog, periodicals, index, and the librarian, the library wouldn’t still be a database; it would be an unusable database. So, restating our definition,we will define a database as an organized collection of data.

To define and understand exactly what is the Database you should have to have a clear image of data itself.

Data is the facts about an object or concept. This could be a person, a place, an event, and action, in fact any one of a number of THINGS. A single fact may be considered as an element of data, or a data element. Regarding from that we can define what is the information:

Information is a data which has been organized, refined and presented in a form which can be used to facilitate a decision-making process or some other activity.

Often data itself considered as a unit of information. The distinction between the two definitions then becomes blurred; being contexual of the use of that data (or information).

A database is simply put, a collection of data, therefore, the brief definition of database might be:
• A store of information,
• Held over a period of time,
• In computer-readable form.
(Source: WENT2000 training kit)
A database is a system which collects various data, and lets users to get some information from them.

Source:
Database Concepts. WENT1999
Mysql & mSql O’Reilly
http://www.csie.ndhu.edu.tw/

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Database Components

Generally, database is constructed from sets of facts, and needs a system to manage them.

Note therefore that a database system consists of…
• Database users
• Database administrator (one who is responsible for development of database, application, user interface development)
• Data Administrator (the one who is responsible for data supply, data management)
• Database Management System (the program which is responsible for database management activities)
• User Interface (the program which is responsible to provide users easy-understable enquiry forms and results)
• Database

Imagine if some components were missing from database system. If there were no-user than there wouldn’t be any need of the database. Database users can be human and other computer or an industry system. In our case, I think the users will be your colleagues and your organization.

Source:
Database Concepts. WENT1999
Mysql & mSql O’Reilly
http://www.csie.ndhu.edu.tw/

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Database Characteristics and Advantages

Database is used for centralized management of data. Compared to the conventional file system, the database has the following characteristics and advantages:














Database
Conventional file system
Minimal data duplication. The rule is: “input once- use many times”
As a result, data inconsistencies are minimized and the latest information is made available at any time.
Introduces massive data duplication because data was stored in many different files.
Each database file is shared by many application programs and data can be modified easily.
Each application program had its own files.
Supports many kinds of requests for data. Since data is stored in a form most appropriate for practical use, data can be retrieved for unexpected or nonstandard requests.
Thus, one achieves greater expandability and cost reduction.

Inflexible: it addresses only the needs that have been considered during the design.


Source:
Database Concepts. WENT1999
Mysql & mSql O’Reilly
http://www.csie.ndhu.edu.tw/

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Database Terminology

Table
Describing the collection of files as related means that it has a common purpose (e.g., data about students). Sometimes files are also called tables, and there are synonyms for some other terms. A table is the formal name given to the group of records that contain the elements of the collection. A table normally represents a distinct object (business clients or library books), or an event (product orders or stock prices). A table is a basic unit for storing data in the relational database. Files contain records (or rows). The fields in a record provide a complete description of each item in a collection. A record is a unique instance of data about an object or event. Each record contains an instance of a file. For example, if the file stores data about a student, each record will contain data about a single student.

Records have fields (or columns). A field is the most basic structural unit of a database. It is a container for a piece of data. In most cases, only a single logical piece of data fits in each field. Fields store the details of an instance (e.g., student's first name, last name, or date of birth). A byte, a unit of storage sufficient to store a single character, consists of a string of eight contiguous bits or binary digits.

Others relate a table to a spreadsheet; for example, a spreadsheet that contains data about books. A collection of related tables is a relational database.


DBMS (Database Management System)
Database handling techniques grew out of earlier and simpler file processing techniques. A file consists of an ordered collection of records; a database consists of two or more related files that we might want to process together in various different ways. It will store not only the individual records containing the numbers or words needed for some application, but auxiliary information which will allow those records to be accessed more quickly, or which will link related records or data items together. A database designer may be required to choose how much and what sort of auxiliary information to store, using his knowledge of how the database will be used.

Handling large volumes of data manually is a nightmare for a database administrator. In the database arena, a type of software that hastens database administration and management is a DataBase Management System (DBMS) software. DBMS is a data storage and retrieval system which permits data to be stored dnon-redundantly while making it appear to the user as if data is well-integrated.

Source:
Database Concepts. WENT1999
Mysql & mSql O’Reilly
http://www.csie.ndhu.edu.tw/

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why have a database and a DBMS?

An organization uses a computer to store and process information because it hopes for speed, accuracy, efficiency, economy, etc. beyond what could be achieved using clerical methods. The objectives of using a DBMS must in essence be the same although the justifications may be more indirect.

Early computer applications were based on existing clerical methods and stored information was partitioned in much the same way as manual files. But the computer's processing speed gave a potential for RELATING data from different sources to produce valuable management information, provided that some standardization could be imposed over departmental boundaries.

The idea emerged of the integrated database as a central resource. Data is captured as close as possible to its point of origin and transmitted to the database, then extracted by anyone within the organization who requires it. However many provisions have become attached to this idea in practice, it still provides possibly the strongest motivation for the introduction of a DBMS in large organizations. The idea is that any piece of information is entered and stored just once, eliminating duplications of effort and the possibility of inconsistency between different departmental records.

Source:
Database Concepts. WENT1999
Mysql & mSql O’Reilly
http://www.csie.ndhu.edu.tw/

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Database Models

• Hierarchical database
• Network database
• Relational database
• Object Oriented
• Object-relational

Hierarchical Database
In a hierarchical data model, data is organized into a tree-like structure. The structure allows repeating information using parent/child relationships: each parent can have many children but each child only has one parent.




Network Database
Where the hierarchical model structures data as a tree of records, with each record having one parent record and many children, the
network database model allows each record to have multiple parent and child records, forming a lattice structure.

Relational Database
The relational database represents each record type in tabular form, and all records of the same type are contained in a single table.




Object Oriented Database
In contrast to a relational database where a complex data structure must be flattened out to fit into tables or joined together from those tables to form the in-memory structure, object oriented databases have no performance overhead to store or retrieve a web or hierarchy of interrelated objects. For example, at MIAD we have the MOODLE, which is an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment!




Source:
Database Concepts. WENT1999
Mysql & mSql O’Reilly
http://www.csie.ndhu.edu.tw/

Saturday, November 04, 2006

National Sex Offender Registry

free national US search for registered sex offenders. Map registered sex offenders to see who lives in your area.

www.familywatchdog.us

National Public Service CHEATERS Database

National Public Service CHEATERS Database

www.unfaithfulpeople.com

More Terminology - Data Shadow

data shadow n. The trackable data that a person creates by using technologies such as credit cards, cell phones, and the Internet.

Example Citation:
"It's not only spam that worries Garfinkel. It's the power that businesses wield with personal information. Take the case of a Los Angeles man who injured his leg in a supermarket; when he sued, the market used records of his alcohol purchases to malign his character. Our 'data shadows' — a term coined by Columbia professor Alan Westin — 'force us to live up to a new standard of accountability,' Garfinkel writes."
—Alex Lash, "Private Eyes," The Industry Standard, February 21, 2000


Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century (2001)
by Simson Garfinkel

Forget the common cold. Instead, consider the rise of "false data syndrome", a deceptive method of identification that's derived from numbers rather than more recognisable human traits. Simson Garfinkel couples this idea with concepts like "data shadow" and "data sphere" to paint a decidedly unappealing scenario in which advanced technology has overriden privacy protection in Database Nation.

© 1996-2006, Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates



A very scary example of Data Shadow.




NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

Database Issues in Homeland Security

We've learned that government agencies must share information in order to secure our homeland. What technical and social hurdles must be overcome to share data in a workable manner, eventually leading to a more secure USA?

click the title for the full article.

What is The National DNA Database®?

The National DNA Database® (NDNAD) is an intelligence database. It was set up in 1995, following amendments to the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984 by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This allowed buccal (mouth) scrapes, criminal justice samples, or rooted hairs, to be obtained for DNA analysis in broadly the same circumstances as fingerprints. The information derived from these can be searched against records held by or on behalf of the police.

© Forensic Science Service Ltd. 2005. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Memory and Database...

Questions:

How far will we go to archive, remember our lives? Will humans have to opportunity to document their whole lives, and store it in a database for later retrieval? And if so, is that ethically correct, considering 'no man is an island,' and a single person is connected to many others?

Would anyone actually want their whole lives recorded, including the good, the bad and the ugly? The things we do when we think nobody else is looking, including things that we may not be proud to relive? If there is no record of these occurrences, did they really happen? Conspiracies, cover-ups, Christopher Columbus, extra-terrestrials...

Who's to decide what is archived? And what is or is not censored?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Nova's Paper about 'Memory'

The Many Wonders of Memory

Memory is the ability to remember, mentally retain impressions of past experiences, and the process of taking in and storing information to retrieve at a later date. The mind works in such a way that it sifts through information that is taken in remembers according to its use.

Senses are used for survival, telling us that objects are too hot to touch, our mind cautions against it. The senses are also the first step of forming memories. Everything we perceive through our senses of sight, taste, smell, hearing, and touch enters our sensory memory. From there our mind determines how we might find experiences or information necessary in the future, whether it be memory for skills and procedures (procedural memory), or memory of the knowledge for the meaning of words and how to apply them (semantic memory), or even the memory for facts (declarative memory).

The study of memory goes back many centuries, and has been improved and tweaked along the way. In order to improve the human memory, technology has become a crutch, but before that, people came up with other mnemo-technics, (the process or technique of improving or developing the memory.)

Centuries ago the mind and the human memory was thought of as a device implanted for survival. The early Greeks perfected a system of memory that allowed them to remember vital information that would come in handy for their survival. “They used the mental imprinting of any objects or key points to be remembered onto specific locations along a pathway previously memorized from an actual temple. To recall the points in their proper order, one simply had to take the walk through the temple in one's mind, observing the contents left at each location along the way.” (Viola, 470)

During the early 1500’s Giulio Camillo created a "Memory Theater.” He aimed at creating a real space: a small wooden theatre, with manuscripts and notes stuffed in the various seats. His goal was to store ancient learning in an accessible form separate from books.
Today the storage of memory in order to increasing the quantity a human mind can remember information has become dependant on technology. Human memory and technology memory is all a matter of convenience and luxury.

During the 1950’s internal memory in computers first began to take existence. It was first made of tubes of liquid mercury several feet long. In order to function as storage, electrical pulses were converted to sound and back to electrical in a continuous loop, the slow conversion enabled the digital data to function as storage.

Technological memory has improved drastically over the last 50 years. In 1954, magnetic drum memory was used in the IBM 650 Computer, introduced in 1954. It held two thousand 10-digit words. That much memory today would fit on the head of a pin. The size and capacity of computer memory continued to improve, two years after the Magnetic Drum Memory, the tubes in the Whirlwind were replaced with magnetic cores, which were much more reliable.
More recently memory is stored on small chips. Memory is stored in many different ways, some that are able to be deleted and replaced and some that is permanent.

In today’s society technology has been used to assist the mind to remember important things. An artificial memory aid was invented to assist people that suffer from ADD or ADHD, or even Alzheimer’s. It is a handheld device modelled after the function of the brain known as the "phonological loop", which uses short snippets of acoustic information as a memory cue. The device has a speaker, a microphone and controls for recording and playing audio. The user can record things that they wish to remember at a later time, and just like the mind, it reminds the user of what was requested to be remembered.

As technology advances, solutions have been invented to create alterations and advances to the human mind, in order to fix problems. A new advancement has been introduced to insert a chip in the brain, used fix problems with the Hippocampus which "encodes" experiences so they can be stored as long-term memories elsewhere in the brain. It is said that if you lose your hippocampus you only lose the ability to store new memories, you still have access to the old memories that are already stored.

In order to accomplish this advancement, the inventors had to do three things: devise a mathematical model of how the hippocampus performs under all possible conditions, build that model into a silicon chip, and then Interface the chip with the brain. Once that was done, the chip would have to be tested on animals, before actually inserting it in a human brain.
Inserting a chip in brain introduces many ethically concerns. For example, currently no one has been able to prove whether or not humans have any control over what the mind remembers. If so, would brain implants of the future force some people to remember things they would rather forget? The mind enables humans to forget painful memories.

Another big ethical concern arises when the person gives consent to the implant. The people most in need of it will be those with a damaged hippocampus and a reduced ability to form new memories. If someone can’t form new memories, then to what extent can they give consent to have the implant?

There seems to be a constant need and desire for increased ability to boost the human memory. In 1945, Vannevar Bush had a vision, to create such a device, called a memex, that would create a database of knowledge; “A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility” (Bush)

This was a dream that has become a reality thanks to Gordon Bell. With the help of modern technology, he has invented My Life Bits. He has inserted his whole life onto the computer, including: books, personal documents, memos, emails, bills, legal documents, papers written, photos, posters, paintings, photo of things, artifacts, medals, plaques, home movies and videos, CD collection, PC files and much much more. His goal is to determine the limits of modern technology.

Creating such a database of a human’s life, can lead to controversy. When is it ok to store a person’s life, when so many other people are involved? Doesn’t that invade others’ privacy? When compiling the data Gordon ran into such a dilemma, he came across a memo insisted upon “never being reproduced.” In order to archive every bit of his life, he had no choice.
The other issue that is brought up, is the dilemma of searching for specific memories, information, or situations. We have such a desire to archive and access our memories, but since a single person’s life consists of tons of experiences, information, is it a realistic feat to compile all of our memories for later access?

How far will we go remember?