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Microsoft researcher converted his brain into “e-memory”

Gordon BellFor the past decade, Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell has been moving the data from his brain onto computers — where he knows it will be safe.

Sure, you could say all of us do this to some extent. We save digital pictures from family events and keep tons of e-mail.

But Bell, who is 75 years old, takes the idea of digital memory to a sci-fi-esque extreme. He carries around video equipment, cameras and audio recorders to capture his conversations, commutes, trips and experiences. Microsoft is working on a SenseCam that would hang around a person’s neck and automatically capture every detail of life in photo form. Bell has given that a whirl. He also saves everything — from restaurant receipts (he takes pictures of them) to correspondence, bills and medical records. He makes PDF files out of every Web page he views.

In sum, this mountain of data — more than 350 gigabytes worth, not including the streaming audio and video — is a replica of Bell’s biological memory. It’s actually better, he says, because, if you back up your data in enough places, this digitized “e-memory” never forgets. It’s like having a multimedia transcript of your life.

By about 2020, he says, our entire life histories will be online and searchable. Location-aware smartphones and inexpensive digital memory storage in the “cloud” of the Internet make the transition possible and inevitable. No one will have to fret about storing the details of their lives in their heads anymore. We’ll have computers for that. And this revolution will “change what it means to be human,” he writes.

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