Before you scoff, let me point out some things. What is it about Paris Hilton that allures and titillates us? I’d argue that it’s part morbid curiosity, part access to her life. Through stolen videos, we get to watch her in the privacy of her hotel rooms, bathrooms. Through the continuous paparazzi surveillance, we know where she is at all times, are inundated with photographs of her climbing in and out of cars, walking into clubs, on the beach, in stores and restaurants. We know who she dates, what she eats, where she goes, what she buys, and almost, what she thinks.
Now, step back and look at the progression of telecommunication software and how it’s melding with the internet. At the moment, we all enjoy the concept of ‘privacy’, but this is growing increasingly under attack. MySpace, FaceBook, GPS, cell phone video cameras, blogging – they’re all pushing our private lives into the public eye. At the moment, we can crudely document our lives, and put them out there for strangers to view. Now, fast forward thirty years. Where might we stand then? As solid-state storage devices grow smaller and cheaper, as technology hybridizes and younger people grow increasingly jaded as to the desireability of privacy, might we not all soon become as exposed as Paris Hilton?
Consider this passage from a speech Charles Stross gave recently in Germany:
Today, I can pick up about 1Gb of FLASH memory in a postage stamp sized card for that much money. fast-forward a decade and that’ll be 100Gb. Two decades and we’ll be up to 10Tb.
10Tb is an interesting number. That’s a megabit for every second in a year — there are roughly 10 million seconds per year. That’s enough to store a live DivX video stream — compressed a lot relative to a DVD, but the same overall resolution — of everything I look at for a year, including time I spend sleeping, or in the bathroom. Realistically, with multiplexing, it puts three or four video channels and a sound channel and other telemetry — a heart monitor, say, a running GPS/Galileo location signal, everything I type and every mouse event I send — onto that chip, while I’m awake. All the time. It’s a life log; replay it and you’ve got a journal file for my life. Ten euros a year in 2027, or maybe a thousand euros a year in 2017. (Cheaper if we use those pesky rotating hard disks — it’s actually about five thousand euros if we want to do this right now.)
Lifelogs. An ocean of public lives awash over the internet. Today, people strive to have others notice their videos on YouTube. Tomorrow? Might we not channel surf through each other’s lives?