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Can computers help us remember?

"Memory is full" (cc) by Rutger Middendorp

What if you could Google your own memories and recall details with perfect clarity? What if your iPhone could ensure you never forget to buy birthday gifts for the people you love? Can we trust our own recollections of past events? Will we all have digital assistants in the future?

These are just some of the questions discussed in this 30-minute audio interview with Sunil Vemuri. Sunil spent 2 years digitally recording his own life while he was a researcher at MIT, and went on to found reQall, a company whose product specializes in helping you remember what’s important as you go about your daily life, with a minimum of effort.

Click here to listen to the full MP3 interview. (Length 32:19, Size 31Mb).

Editor’s note: This interview was recorded back in March 2010, as the first episode in a regular Human 2.0 podcast series. Unfortunately, as Human 2.0 is made in our free time, we’ve had to put the podcast plans on hold for the time being. We’re publishing this as a one-off audio post, but watch this space as we may feature more audio content in the future!

Image (cc) by Rutger Middendorp on Flickr.

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Who owns your digital media?

Shoeboxes of Tapes, on FlickrIn  this episode of NPR’s Science Friday podcast from last year, New York Times columnist Randy Stross talks about how we’re now entering an age where our digital “products” are no longer ours to own.

When you buy music as an MP3 (assuming it’s not protected) you can copy or transfer it freely, to be used as wish, just as cassette tape recordings used to be. But in a world of controlled devices such as the Kindle or Apple’s iPod and iPad devices, it’s no longer to separate the “product” (be it an app, an e-book or an interactive website) from the device you use to consume it. Companies now have the ability to change the content, the experience or your access, after you have purchased it. Sometimes the content will be hosted online, in the cloud, which means you can access it anyway, but you’ll also never truly possess it.

Should we just accept this change, and be happy we won’t be carrying our media around for the rest of our life in shoeboxes, or should we fight to hold onto our rights of ownership so that we can be free to watch, read and listen whenever and however we want?

Read more, or listen to the MP3.


Image credit: draggin on Flickr.

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The Ethics of Designer Babies

Commercial DNA service, by aprilzosia on Flickr

This episode of BBC World’s Discovery podcast looks at the science which is already allowing parents to choose those embryoes least likely to develop diseases later in life. At first these techniques seem like powerful tools to put in the hands of would-be parents, but since any genetic assessment can only give probability, not certainty, it has the potential to create agonizing choices. And the programme also looks at India, where pale skin is becoming increasingly desirable, especially for girls, and asks if legislation should stop parents from rejecting embryoes for aesthetic rather than medical reasons.

Listen to the episode (streaming audio hosted by the BBC)

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This episode of Digital Planet, from the BBC World Service, includes an interview with the director of the FutureEverything festival in Manchester UK about the winner of the Future Everything Award, a collaborative project called EyeWriter which is a collaborative project using eye-tracking technology to allow graffiti artist Tony Quan, who is paralyzed due a condition known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, to continue drawing his tags and art from his hospital bed.

The episode also features looks at how to design software for cerebral palsy sufferers, and how to re-use old computers in new ways.

Listen to the episode (28 mins audiostream)

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In this episode of CBC’s Spark Plus, Nora Young interviews Danah Boyd and William Deresiewicz about the ways in which social networks like Facebook are influencing how we think about friendship and changing what we mean by the term “friend”.

Listen to the MP3 (34:04)

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The e-memory revolution has begun

Vannevar Bush's Memex concept, from 1945

In this Sep 2009 episode of NPR’s On Point, Tom Ashbrook interviews Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell, authors of the new book “Total Recall: The E-memory revolution”. Gordon Bell has, for over ten years, been digitizing his entire life as part of the MyLifeBits project, inspired by the concept of a “Memex” (pictured left), put forward by Vannevar Bush in 1945. Bell outsources much of his memory to computer systems designed to make him more effective. The book (and the podcast) explore the ways in which this e-memory revolution has already begun and will transform aspects of society from privacy and healthcare to learning and extra-marital affairs.

Listen to the episode (streaming audio provided by NPR).

Image credit: Memex image by p373 on Flickr

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