Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age
The benefits of being able to move on.
Information from the publisher
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access, and increasingly powerful software – and describes the dangers of everlasting digital memory, whether it's outdated information taken out of context or compromising photos the Web won't let us forget.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.
- Winner of the 2010 Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book in Media ecology, Media Ecology Association
- Winner of the 2010 Don K. Price Award, Science, Technology, and Environmental Politics Section of the American Political Science Association
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is professor of internet governance and regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, and a member of the academic advisory board of Microsoft. His other books include Governance and Information Technology. A former software developer and lawyer, he spent ten years on the faculty of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
Also available in German, Italian, and Simplified Chinese.
"Mayer-Schonberger deserves to be applauded and Delete deserves to be read for making us aware of the timelessness of what we created and for getting us to consider what endless accumulation might portend." - Paul Duguid, Times Literary Supplement
"In Delete, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger argues that we should be less troubled by the fleetingness of our digital records than by the way they can linger." - Adam Keiper, Wall Street Journal
"Mayer-Schönberger raises questions about the power of technology and how it affects our interpretation of time...He draws on a rich body of contemporary psychological theory to argue that both individuals and societies are obliged to rewrite or eliminate elements of the past that would render action in the present impossible." - Fred Turner, Nature
"If the gathering, storage, and processing of information puts us all in the center of a digital panopticon, the failure to forget creates a panopticon crossbred with a time-travel machine. Mayer-Schönberger catalogs the range of social concerns that are arising as technology favors remembering over forgetting, and offers some approaches that might give forgetting a respected place in the digital world. Read this book. Don't forget about forgetting." - David Clark, Massachusetts Institute of Technology