Viktor Mayer-Schönberger visited Google’s Mountain View, CA headquarters as part of the Authors@Google series, in 2009, where he presented the topic of his book, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age.
Delete looks at the surprising phenomenon of perfect remembering in the digital age, and reveals why we must reintroduce our capacity to forget. Digital technology empowers us as never before, yet it has unforeseen consequences as well. Potentially humiliating content on Facebook is enshrined in cyberspace for future employers to see. Google remembers everything we’ve searched for and when. The digital realm remembers what is sometimes better forgotten, and this has profound implications for us all.
In Delete, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger traces the important role that forgetting has played throughout human history, from the ability to make sound decisions unencumbered by the past to the possibility of second chances. The written word made it possible for humans to remember across generations and time, yet now digital technology and global networks are overriding our natural ability to forget–the past is ever present, ready to be called up at the click of a mouse.
Mayer-Schönberger examines the technology that’s facilitating the end of forgetting–digitization, cheap storage and easy retrieval, global access, and increasingly powerful software–and describes the dangers of everlasting digital memory, whether it’s outdated information taken out of context or compromising photos the Web won’t let us forget. He explains why information privacy rights and other fixes can’t help us, and proposes an ingeniously simple solution–expiration dates on information–that may. Delete is an eye-opening book that will help us remember how to forget in the digital age.
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University’s Internet Institute and a faculty affiliate of the Belfer Center of Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. He has published eight books, including the awards-winning “Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age” and he is the author of over a hundred articles and book chapters on the information economy.
A frequent public speaker, and sought expert for print and broadcast media worldwide, he has been featured in New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Economist, Nature, Science, NPR, BBC, The Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais, Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, and WIRED.