The Virtue of Forgetting

Professor Helen Margetts, Professor Viktor Mayer-Schönberger

Duration: 00:32:54

Recorded: 18 September 2009

Abstract

Professor Viktor Mayer-Schönberger discusses the themes of his new book 'Delete' with Helen Margetts, Professor of Society and the Internet at the Oxford Internet Institute. '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 to find and share information as never before, but we do not always foresee the consequences of these new powers. 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 conversation, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Helen Margetts look at 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. Can the dangers of everlasting digital memory, whether it's outdated information taken out of context or compromising photos the Web won't let us forget, be avoided?

About the speakers

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