I’m a little suspicious of technology, as many of you no doubt know. I don’t dislike it, and I certainly use it (case in point), but I am suspicious. Upgrades provide more and more information to our unknown voyeurs and when the system shows off its new knowledge it can be scary. For example, the other day a message flashed in my upper right corner that I had a new memory. At first I was so startled by the presumption than I couldn’t click on it in time to learn what my new memory might be. The notification had my Photos logo on it, so I went there to see. Indeed, there was a new section—or at least one I hadn’t previously noticed—in my Photos app. It contained a picture with today’s date from years past.
Now I don’t mind being reminded of pleasant things, but I don’t trust the algorithms of others to generate them for me. This computer on my lap may be smart, but not that so very smart. I know that social media, such as Facebook, have been “making memories” for years now. I doubt, however, that the faux brains we tend to think computers are have any way of knowing what we actually feel or believe. In conversations with colleagues over cognition and neurology it becomes clear that emotion is an essential element in our thinking. Algorithms may indeed be logical, but can they ever be authentically emotional? Can a machine be programmed to understand how it feels to see a sun rise, or to be embraced by a loved one, or to smell baking bread? Those who would reduce human brains to mere logic are creating monsters, not minds.
So memories are now being made by machine. In actuality they are simply generating reminders based on dates. This may have happened four or five years ago, but do I want to remember it today? Maybe yes, maybe no. It depends on how I feel. We really don’t have a firm grasp on what life is, although we recognize it when we see it. We’re further even still from knowing what consciousness may be. One thing we know for sure, however, is that it involves more than what we reason out. We have hunches and intuition. There’s that fudge factor we call “instinct,” which is, after all, another way of claiming that animals and newborns can’t think. But think they can. And if my computer wants to help with memories, maybe it can tell me where I left my car keys before I throw the pants containing them into the wash again, which is a memory I don’t particularly want to relive.