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If Everything Is Recorded

Last year (okay, so it wasn’t that long ago, but it’s still fun to say “last year”) Note to Self had an episode called “There Is No ‘Off the Record’” about a “future were every word you utter is recorded and saved.”  Your life, transcribed.

This is different from writing everything down in a journal or keeping a really detailed calendar.  Recording your life (and then automatically transcribing it) means that you (and everyone who interacts with you) would have a record of every word spoken.

You would be able to go back and re-read your favourite conversations again.  You could snuggle up with your partner and re-read your first date every anniversary.  You could remember every funny thing someone said to you long after they’re gone.  Imagine that: You could type their name in the data system and bring up every time they spoke to you or you spoke about them.


It would also record every snide remark you make behind closed doors.  It would record your arguments, and you may be tempted to re-read them and cringe over every hurtful word when you’re down.

I’ve been wobbling on the fence, thinking about this episode a lot, because we’re in a strange age where words are recorded — such as typed on Twitter and then screenshotted by various people even after the person deletes their words — and people still deny that they said such things.  And other people believe them.  That is the most bizarre part: The words are there in black-and-white — either written down and spoken in a recording — and the person says, “I never said that.”  And people echo, “He never said that.”

So what is the point?  I mean, beyond your own personal record?  What is the point when other people can see or hear the proof and still say, “Nope.  Never said.”

At the same time, how can we ever move forward and change as human beings if we’re always held to old ideas?  What if someone has offensive ideas and their mind is changed?  Should we go with the most recent words, or do we hold them to their older ideas, too?

I don’t think I’d want every conversation recorded and transcribed, despite seeing all the benefits to the  system.  I would love to relive some old conversations; but I couldn’t handle people who say, “Nope, never said it” despite evidence to the contrary.  It’s bad enough as is.

What do you think about the idea of recording and transcribing every single day of your life?


1 Charlotte { 01.05.17 at 7:46 am }

I think there is a reason the human mind works the way it does when it comes to remembering events and words spoken. There’s that whole aspect of time heaing to a degree, and that’s part of survival. I think it would be psychologically damaging to have everything in life recorded in this way. Even though you could also get all the good stuff, it wouldn’t be worth it to also have the bad.

2 a { 01.05.17 at 8:01 am }

That would be a horrible thought, if I weren’t already used to the philosophy of “don’t say anything about anyone that you wouldn’t say directly to their face.” I try not to say things that I would be ashamed of, or would want to later deny.

I don’t like the idea of everything being recorded. I enjoy my clearly cleaned up memories. My sister remembers all the slights and insults and disappointments of her life (although she never mentions her own terrible behavior). While her memory is great, I think it makes her unable to let things go or get past things.

3 torthuil { 01.05.17 at 8:44 am }

I like the idea of people being accountable for what they say, but am bothered by the same issues you are. Sometimes it is better to forget and move on, both with regards to our mistakes and other people’s. It feels judgmental and unforgiving to me to dig up everything a person said and use it against them, even though we can easily all think of situations where it is useful to have a record of what people actually thought and did. But generally speaking, I don’t think that’s a very healthy way to interact with people, and as you point out, simply having a record of what was said does not eliminate our human prejudices. With regards to accountability, I prefer this principle (which I found in CS Lewis): if you were going to live forever (or a thousand years, if forever is too much to grasp) how would that change how you approach every day decisions and situations? The idea being that every decision and interaction shapes your character in some way, and over time you slowly evolve into a good person or a bad one. That idea feels more humane to me, and puts the onus of recording our words (in this case including thoughts) on each individual.

4 Cristy { 01.05.17 at 9:04 am }

The denial reminds me of scenes from 1984. 1+1 = 3, anyone?

I’m currently hyper aware of what I write in any format given that I expect it will be brought up again in the future. And yet, despite the legality of records, there’s always a way people can worm out of what said.

5 Laurel Regan, CZT { 01.05.17 at 9:57 am }

Since all too often I wish I had an “Undo” button after shooting my mouth off about something stupid, I think I’ll take a pass on recording everything I say. 😉

6 Sharon { 01.05.17 at 12:06 pm }

I don’t know. I see the downsides you mention, but it would be so wonderful to go back and listen again to some of the conversations I had with my grandmothers (both now deceased), or to things I said as a child, or that my parents said to me as a child.

7 Ana { 01.05.17 at 1:17 pm }

I agree with Charlotte. I think it would be overwhelming to remember/relive life without any of the haziness of distance. I read a book once about a girl who could remember & relive every scene from the past in her brain and it made it hard for her to have relationships. The thought is also horrifying in that (like you said) no one would really be able to start over or change, and everyone deserves that chance. Otherwise, what is the point of life?

8 Click { 01.05.17 at 2:57 pm }

I think it depends on people’s attitudes. I try not to say things which might be hurtful to other people and I even feel guilty just thinking those sorts of things.

At work all of my conversations and emails are recorded and it does make you aware of the things you are saying. I like to think that if everything I did was recorded that I would be aware of it and would choose my words carefully.

All the same, if people would deny that things are inaccurate or the records could be modified it would be a pretty pointless system and I guess over time it would cease to be trusted. People would just view it as a little quirk and it would be very open to abuse.

So yeah, I don’t think I’d go for it.

9 Beth { 01.05.17 at 4:55 pm }

Nope. I am self conscious enough (something I’m working on) – I don’t need to be able to replay for real conversations I already often replay in my head. However, my kids – I would love to be able to play back so much of what they say. At 2 and 5, they are so innocent and so much of what they say is so funny. I would love to listen to them on a loop (minus whining of course) and play them back to themselves when they are older.

10 chandni { 01.06.17 at 4:44 am }

Mel , I saw an episode called ‘Entire History of You’ in this series called Black Mirror . That sounds eerily like what you’ve mentioned. and It would be actually a scary situation when every thing we are listening to or saying is recorded , played back and we can own/disown it irrespective.
I think I like the idea of us choosing to keep a certain part of it hidden , sometimes from ourselves too. that’s why I love blogging , one can choose to publish some ideas and share with the world , come back and relive and sometimes we just choose to move on from some moments and never think about them again..

11 em { 01.07.17 at 12:47 pm }

I remember asking myself this question, back when lifecasting was a thing, in the mid-90s. I was curious about it, but realized I would not be interested in having my entire life broadcast, esp. as it would be complex to include the people around me and my job was one where confidentiality was a required component. But even leaving the job out of it, there were things I knew I wasn’t interested in lifecasting.

I believe in privacy as well, and don’t think we have enough of it here in the 21st century. Even if I do spill a lot of what’s going on with me in my blog, there are areas that are mostly off-limits, esp. around other people’s lives.

12 em { 01.08.17 at 12:42 am }

I had to come back because this was tickling at my memory and wouldn’t leave me alone until I remembered which is definitely ironic considering the subject matter and even more specifically, what I had forgotten.

There’s a condition or ability, depending on how you look at it, called hyperthymesia. It’s the ability of having a detailed autobiographical memory. People with hyperthymesia can tell you things like what they had for breakfast June 10, 1999. They can recall conversations verbatum. And so on.

NPR (Talk of the Nation) did a show about it, you can find it here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90596530

You can find the wikipedia entry here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperthymesia

I will say that it sounds almost impossible to live with. Okay. Now that’s off my mind now that my not-at-all hyperthymesic memory has coughed that up. 😉

13 Mel { 01.08.17 at 9:29 am }

That (hyperthymesia) sounds heinous. But this would be out of your head. You would know the recording or transcript exists, but unless you wanted to see it, you would never have to look at those words or memories again. I still don’t think I would want to live that way. I mean, would anyone ever throw away anyone else’s digital recordings? It’s like you would die twice: when your body was gone AND when someone deleted your recorded life.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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