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When We Are No More: How Digital Memory Is Shaping Our Future

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Our memory gives the human species a unique evolutionary advantage. Our stories, ideas, and innovations--in a word, our "culture"--can be recorded and passed on to future generations. Our enduring culture and restless curiosity have enabled us to invent powerful information technologies that give us invaluable perspective on our past and define our future. Today, we stand at the very edge of a vast, uncharted digital landscape, where our collective memory is stored in ephemeral bits and bytes and lives in air-conditioned server rooms. What sources will historians turn to in 100, let alone 1,000 years to understand our own time if all of our memory lives in digital codes that may no longer be decipherable?

In When We Are No More Abby Smith Rumsey explores human memory from pre-history to the present to shed light on the grand challenge facing our world--the abundance of information and scarcity of human attention. Tracing the story from cuneiform tablets and papyrus scrolls, to movable type, books, and the birth of the Library of Congress, Rumsey weaves a compelling narrative that explores how humans have dealt with the problem of too much information throughout our history, and indeed how we might begin solve the same problem for our digital future. Serving as a call to consciousness, When We Are No More explains why data storage is not memory; why forgetting is the first step towards remembering; and above all, why memory is about the future, not the past.

"If we're thinking 1,000 years, 3,000 years ahead in the future, we have to ask ourselves, how do we preserve all the bits that we need in order to correctly interpret the digital objects we create? We are nonchalantly throwing all of our data into what could become an information black hole without realizing it." --Vint Cerf, Chief Evangelist at Google, at a press conference in February, 2015.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published June 16, 2015

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Abby Smith Rumsey

3 books4 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 33 reviews
Profile Image for Chad.
272 reviews16 followers
August 14, 2017
When a book discusses the Sumerian cuneiform, ancient Greek mnemonics, Gutenberg’s press, Thomas Jefferson’s personal library, and the Internet Archive, you know it's good.
Profile Image for Daniel M..
Author 1 book29 followers
September 11, 2016
I got this book thinking that it would be smart to read about “digital memories” from someone who has thought about this for a while. Rumsey is a historian from Harvard and the Library of Congress, working on digital collecting and curation. She’s in the middle of this complex area full of ideas, technologies, and practices. Rumsey knows a lot about this area. What does she know?

The thing is... the book is full of good ideas, but they’re sort of strung out like pearls in a somewhat confusing text that can’t quite decide what it’s really about. It seems a bit... unfocused. I watched her talk on YouTube, and that was better. Still, the book needs a more coherent narrative. I've got lots of interesting tidbits, but no real sense for the core of the book.

As I read, I took several pages of notes, but even now (after a second reading), I find it hard to summarize. Here’s my outline (caution: each chapter contains more than is here... which is part of the problem--this is hard book to gist as it meanders about)

1. Memory on display. Writing makes long-term storage and transmission of cultural ideas possible. But it opens questions about what’s a “final copy” of a document? A: We think of a “final copy,” but this doesn’t seem to hold water. Docs change, as do interpretations.

2. How curiosity created culture. Culture relies on writing as a technology, and the written word as a way to transmit knowledge across generations.

3. Greek thought. The technology of knowledge capture. How mnemonics are one such tech; libraries are another. A thought about the moral hazard or encoding thought.

4. Where the dead talk. Montaigne, the essayist, was a “print native.” The impact of technology on information capture and flows through our culture.

5. Dream of a universal library. We all want it, but knowledge capture (and organization) is an instrument of politics. (What would a “universal library” be anyway? What political entity would support it?)

6. Materialism. Slightly strange chapter that makes the case that the “old world” (that is, the world is billions of years old) comes from knowledge written out and shared. In particular, that “materialism” (that only material things matter) drives knowledge encoding and a given scientific view. This leads inevitably to “machines for new data.”

7.Memory and forgetting. Human memory is terrible—leaky and subject to errors. We need to understand why/when/where/how to have forgetting. Since we can’t remember it all (or even hold it in our heads), what’s a good strategy for removing something from memory? (Or the library)

8. Memory in the future. There will be lots of data, lots of content. Now what?

9. Mastering memory in the digital age. What is the effect of Google on human memory? Good thing? Or bad thing? (It’s probably just a continuation of what’s gone on before with the externalization of memory.) Discussion of other methods of capturing and storing old traces of data. The effects of copyright on limiting thought and invention… especially as we do this at scale and trans-nationally. The problems of ephemera in the digital age (when all you see are 404 errors).

10. By memory of ourselves. How do we humans deal with all of this data? Millenials don’t really think of “data overload,” it’s just the way they’ve always been. Answer: We’ll deal with it, but be cautious. (But there’s no real directive about what to do about it.)
Profile Image for Mackenzie Brooks.
282 reviews12 followers
February 20, 2018
Assigned this book for my born digital archives class. We skipped over the more science-y chapters, but lots of great thought-provoking stuff about preservation for people who aren't librarians.
Profile Image for Teo Mechea.
80 reviews43 followers
June 25, 2020
Definitely worth reading, but I would have liked to see more writing about future scenarios, as the title suggests. Instead, more than half of the book focuses on the past and even if there is valuable info there, I feel like those collected pieces of history are too unfocused. The author jumps from the Alexandria Library to Montaigne and the Library of Congress trying to make her point but fails to connect these on a deeper than a superficial level.
I feel like she was trying to wrap up the conclusion as fast as possible without really taking the time to dive into the implications of her predictions.
Why not write a longer book than botch your content in order to fit into something your publisher deems "the right length"? I feel like the majority of these little books with intriguing surface ideas and misleading titles keep at the periphery of their potential just so they can be the "ideal" 150 to 250 pages long.
A bit sad and disappointing.
Profile Image for Naum.
156 reviews19 followers
March 14, 2017
Seems like I'm a sucker for books like these. The meta of books & repositories of information, and longevity and cultural memory beyond years and even decades.
Profile Image for David.
243 reviews8 followers
August 3, 2017
Excellent commentary and history of our past and what our future may hold.
No spoilers below, but I will quote some memorable passages from the book itself. There is no particular theme or thread to each of them, but they are the ones that "spoke" to me the clearest and most succinctly. A more complete list of some others that I thought were especially profound can be provided on request.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."--Thomas Jefferson, 1816

"By the fifth century B.C., the Greeks had embarked on a novel enterprise, the concerted cultivation of knowledge for its own sake. In doing so, they made three contributions to the expansion of human memory whose effects are still playing out today. The first is the creation of mnemonic or memory techniques that tap into a profound understanding of how memory relies on emotion and spatialization, thereby predating contemporary neuroscience's findings by twenty-five hundred years. The second is the creation of libraries as centers of learning and scholarship, not primarily storage depots for administrative records. And third is the recognition of the moral hazards of outsourcing the memory of a living, breathing, thinking, and feeling person to any object whatsoever."--Author

"...when the confusing circulation of contradictory ideas and so-called facts cry out with equal force to be given credence, we face a crisis of authority. As authorities and institutions fail, we are forced to decide for ourselves which sources are trustworthy and which are not...Because once there is this much information swirling around us, we turn instinctively to the individuals and groups whose authority to speak on the matter seems most trustworthy. We turn to friends,. And when they fail us, we turn to experts and hope for the best."--Author

"A universal library must include all the books of significance, whether their influence be good or ill. Having access to recorded knowledge and a reliable record of the past...become a linchpin of self-rule. An enlightened people will and must judge for themselves where the truth lies."--Author
(REVIEWER'S NOTE: Those who seek to change history by removing artifacts, statues, memorials, etcetera, because they find them offensive or distasteful would do well to consider this: restricting access to information or history, or outright destroying it or removing it, does NOT make a people more enlightened).

This next clause re-emphasizes the more lucidly highlights the preceding one (for me anyway):
"The expansion of collective memory benefits everyone. The most readily adaptable animal is the one with the largest repertoire of stored experience to call upon. The smaller our repertoire of experience, the more vulnerable we are. Any society that periodically purges its collective memory of old, obsolete, or unorthodox views puts itself directly in harm's way."--Author

"The founders of the American Republic sought to protect the authority of religion by officially separating church and state. This was not intended to remove religion from public life, which is why we see the routine inclusion of prayers in Congress, the mention of God in federal and state oaths of office, and so forth. ON THE CONTRARY, (emphasis mine) it was intended to allow a diversity of creeds to flourish and reduce the general undermining of religion by sectarian fighting."--Author

"No matter how long we live and how polished our manners, emotions can never be civilized. If they were, they would lose their value to us. They are meant to surprise us."--Author
712 reviews15 followers
July 27, 2016
This is an earnest if not 100% revelatory pitch for historians to develop a serious rationale for and rules for creating digital archives. The overarching call to save as much data as possible, while developing a framework to understand said data (MEMORY, not mere HOARDING of data), will be familiar to those who've read major digital humanities publications, or those who follow scholars like Johanna Drucker, Miriam Posner, Roy Rosenzweig, etc. Yet Rumsey writes beautifully and she introduces these topics to a public audience.

Her application of memory heuristics — the tricks humans use to memorize and understand information — to the digital humanities is an inspired conceit, as it encourages readers to see computers not as machines, but as reflections of human thought processes. It's not enough just to have a million hard drives. You have to put a system for understanding information in place, make connections between sources, and know how to let some unimportant things go. With that said, you must save as much information as possible, b/c you never know what the next generation will need.

Rumsey strangely undermines her call for expansive archives with her contention that scientific advances can fill in the gaps when documents fail to survive. So, do we need to worry about archives, or not so much, if carbon dating and other sciences will swoop to history's rescue? This claim upsets the flow of her book's " forward ho!" narrative, which cites empiricism, heuristics, and the dream of universal libraries as stepping stones toward the creation of open digital archives. Still, I suppose Rumsey's pivot away from a pure reliance on archives toward faith in salvific science reflects Rumsey's optimistic futurism, as well as her empirical approach to understanding the world. Like the psychohistorian Hari Selden in Isaac Asimov's "Foundation," Rumsey wants historians to embrace technology, believing that well-designed machines will preserve human memories and assist human inquiry into the far future. The trick is to create rationales and best practices for storing humanistic data in machines, so that we know what we're saving, how we can make old computer files accessible, and why we value digital humanities.

This book is more a rumination on memory and the history of human archives than purely a look at digital humanities — we do not come upon computers until Chapter 9 of 10 — but despite its misleading subtitle, the text is an engaging read. I expect it to go over well with most librarians and popular readers interested in computer science & popular science. Historians and other scholars well versed in digital humanities scholarship may not see Rumsey's text as reinventing the wheel, but the volume may have use for introducing undergraduates to issues of archival work and digital history.
62 reviews
October 31, 2016
What impact will the age of big data have on our collective memory, and thus on our culture and ways of dealing with the future? How will we store, edit, and use it? We have weathered technological innovations for data collection and storage in the past. We'll do so in the future.
Despite some good insights, this was a tedious read. At only 176 pages, the book is overwritten. It took 10 pages, for example, on the life and ills of French writer Montaigne to reach a point that his writings were an innovative response to life after the printing press. Having enjoyed the economic expression and clearly explained hard data in "Unchartered, Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture" by Erez Aiden & Jean-Baptiste Michel, it's hard to recommend "When We Are No More".
Profile Image for Cullen Haynes.
262 reviews9 followers
January 29, 2018
“Over 40,000 years ago, humans discovered a way to cheat death. They transferred their thoughts, dreams, fears and hopes to physical materials that did not die”. Rumsey’s opening to her book paints a harrowing picture of our race, and highlights what makes us different from all other sentient beings...the want, no, need to preserve our own history.

‘When we are no more’ explores this need throughout history, from the burning of the great library of Alexandria to the 20 petabytes of data on the Internet Archive. Collective memory, as Jefferson suggests is not about the past, it’s a reference point, a guiding star to serve our future. And what does this future look like pray tell?

We wait with baited breath...
146 reviews4 followers
July 9, 2018
Firstly I would like to point out that this book has some exceptional interesting ideas and clear insights in the subject of data storage in the digital age - and what some of the problems are that surround storage for the long future ahead.
However the title of the book is misleading as the first 5 out of 10 chapters of the book deal with mankind's history of data accumulation and storage and has little in the way of discussing digital memory - I am assuming these chapters are use to show that big increases in information have occurred in the past and are not a new phenomena. Chapters 1, 3-5 are the chapters I most enjoyed reading and showed that the author was very experienced and comfortable in writing about the past. Chapters 6 & 7 deal with philosophical ideas behind data storage, loss & privacy - these chapters completely lost me and so it seems the author also - as on re-reading these - they appear to be very incoherent. Chapters 8-10 actually deal with Digital Memory and how this is being stored & how it may be stored in the long term. These chapters also cover the challenges and controversies that may/will need to be surmounted. Although I enjoyed reading some of this section - I was continually getting irritated with the author for using WE instead of I or leaving the sentence neutral and not using a pronoun - after all - many of the ideas and thoughts were her own understanding of the matter NOT what is fact or that the reader also thinks the same (which in many cases I didn't). I also think that the author's focus of only 3 chapters of the book to deal with - How Digital Memory is Shaping our Future wasn't enough and thus the title should have been something like - How increases of information have and will shape our future. These last few chapters also have some very good ideas in them, however they are surrounded by text that doesn't gel together well and butterflies off in many directions which distracts the reader from her discerning ideas and thoughts.
The book seems to have been written quickly and without the aid of an experienced editor to smooth out the numerous sentences and paragraphs that really don't flow. Thus you may find yourself re-reading many parts of the book several times in order to understand what the author is talking about. The writing style is also in an academic style that is likely to frustrated anyone who isn't academic in ALL the fields of history, philosophy & digital storage - as with so many academics she has not realised that we are in the digital age and few people want or are able to read a dry technical text that flits from one subject to another and where only a few readers are able to see the connections. There were also quite a few paragraphs that show her pro Christian stance that were not necessary in a book dealing with Digital Memory. She also seems to be pre-occupied with Thomas Jefferson - that I began to wonder if the book was about him and his thoughts on the reasons for the collection and storage of knowledge? I would give this book 4.5 out 10.
Profile Image for Neil H.
178 reviews10 followers
September 4, 2018
After reading this straight after Re-engineering Humanity. The optimism is tempered with consideration of our current malaise of information and attention manipulation. Abbey write happily about how information rendered into our short, long term memory, it's categories of inherent worth as differentiated by our ancestors. How the evolution of teleological thoughts defines and promotes action are paradoxically replaced by the proliferation of science and its endeavours to understand and manipulate nature since the enlightenment ages. She pushes the extension to preserve our thoughts, accomplishments like our ancestry in leaving their legacy on cuneiforms, papyrus, paper, and now media in all its glorious forms. But the question in this age of abundant overload of information is not how we can archive but to pursue the storage of commendable information that serves to enlightened our future humanity that we can are not just passive consumers of mindless entertainment but a progressive species capable of political, scientific and philosophical maturity to contribute our fair share to an accumulation of memorable hope and stewardship.
Profile Image for Joseph Carrabis.
Author 38 books88 followers
September 30, 2020
A wonderful tour-de-force of how digitalia is changing information values. Forget how it's changing information (an amusing statement once you've read the book), the book is about how what we value as information is changing. It's also an excellent history of how and why we as a species developed memory devices (cave paintings to server farms) and what their use meant to us, how they empowered us, what they granted us, and most importantly, what they denied us and where they directed us.
Truly a wonderful read. Highly suggested.
Profile Image for Mike.
400 reviews33 followers
August 21, 2018
This wasn't the "How to Preserve Memories" guide I was looking for.

153...thanks to the distributed nature of the web it's easier than ever to be a collector (researcher)
9-11 testimonies ... early crowdsourcing
1st digital collection acquired by the LOC
157... Jefferson ... make lots of copies and spread them around as insurance against loss.
OTOH, having too much can be as bad as having too little. (eg, Snowden's NSA revelations)
165...Internet Archive
Profile Image for Curtis Anthony Bozif.
211 reviews6 followers
August 28, 2020
A surprisingly interesting book on the history and future of cultural memory. As a visual artist and someone who has worked as a cultural heritage imaging professional in a library at a major university for over twelve years, I would strongly recommend this book to anyone working in libraries, museums, and the arts, especially if they're involved in cultural heritage imaging and digital repositories.
Profile Image for Jeff Zell.
391 reviews3 followers
August 14, 2016
Rumsey, Abby Smith. When We Are No More: How Digital Memory is Shaping our Future. Bloomsbury Press, 2016.

Rumsey observes that humans are unique among the species of this world. Humans alone have the ability to extend their memories and presence. Humans learned to use other instruments in order to increase memories: Images on the walls of caves, pottery, written images on clay tablets, words on papyrus and paper, and the capturing of sound and images through the phonograph and photography. Now, we have entered into the age of digital memory.

Rumsey takes us through the monumental changes that earlier forms of recording created. Each new way of recording stories, ideas, impressions, business, sounds, led to a time of chaos and transition. We are in the midst of new ways of recording sights and sounds and impressions through the growth of digitization. Things are changing fast. Within a short time, we have moved from floppy discs, to “not floppy” discs, to thumb drives, to ever-smaller ways of storing digital information. Some parts of the population are alarmed by what will be lost because of our use of digitization.

Rumsey notes that because we are in the midst of this tidal wave of change we do not know yet what its impact will be. Hard to imagine now that people once distrusted writing and books. Now, the written word is such a part of our culture that no one blinks at its presence. As we go further down the digital path, Rumsey is hopeful. Just as the codex became a significant component in preserving culture, language, ideas, etc., so will our new digital opportunities.

In her discussion of a digital memory, she reminds us of the challenges we face right now with digitization. Electricity and storage facilities and air conditioning are essential. There is an ongoing argument about data mining and the need for awareness and consent. The questions of access and private vs. public are not settled. But then she goes on to lay out some of the possibilities of what we can learn, store, remember, access, etc.

When We Are No More will be a fascinating read for those who wonder about the role of the computer and Internet in our lives now and in the future.
Profile Image for Tim.
144 reviews17 followers
September 21, 2016
I was disappointed by this book, perhaps because it is rooted so strongly in a library paradigm. About two thirds of the book trace the evolution of memory from what humans could hold in their head to an external objects in the form of writing, drawing, and sculpture. Written texts were then accumulated and became the first libraries. These physical manifestations of collective memory were both reflections of, resources for the evolution of cultural identity. Eventually the Renaissance and Enlightenment sanctified the value of collective memory. Thomas Jefferson's passion for collecting books and his founding of the Library of Congress reflected his own conviction that making knowledge widely accessible was fundamental to an effective democratic society. So far, so good.

But when Rumsey begins to consider the replacement of memory as object by memory as bits and bytes, she focuses almost exclusively on how to maintain an enduring repository of knowledge and content as an end in itself. She reflects on such questions as, how do we archive digital knowledge so it is not lost by accident or intention when it is no longer useful or has economic value? How do we protect privacy? She briefly considers what constitutes "literacy" in the digital age -- literacy defined as the ability for individuals to sift and filter out massive amounts of misinformation in order to find truth amid all the digital junk. She notes that we ourselves change as we rely on the convenience of a PDA connected to the Internet to replace increasing amounts of knowledge we used to learn and keep in our heads, but her consideration of the implications is cursory.

She does not address or consider in any depth some of the questions I find most interesting. How does digital memory actually change us, our cognition of the world, and our role in society? How does the concentration of this information in the hands of a few companies impact society and culture? What is the impact of increasingly powerful artificial intelligence that process this collective digitized memory and itself generates new "knowledge".

Think of this book as an interesting appetizer. Perhaps Rumsey or another author is working on the main course as a sequel.
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,440 reviews333 followers
December 16, 2015
"Today, we stand at the very edge of a vast, uncharted digital landscape, where our collective memory is stored in ephemeral bits and bytes and lives in air-conditioned server rooms. What sources will historians turn to in 100, let alone 1,000 years to understand our own time if all of our memory lives in digital codes that may longer be decipherable?" from the publisher's website

After seeing When We Are No More by Abbey Smith Rumsey on NetGalley I couldn't stop thinking about it--the topic was too fascinating. I was thrilled to be granted the book.

Rumsey carefully builds her story, considerings how humans have remembered since Adam and Eve, through the revolutionary development of writing cuneiform on clay tablets, to the proliferation of books via the printing press, the establishment of libraries, to the digitalization of knowledge. She shows how each advancement brought change and challenges as humanity coped with how to store, access, and control the ever growing data bank of human knowledge. Then she presents the challenges presented by the digitalization of knowledge and the precariousness of a digital cultural memory.

Humanity must find the thin line between the distraction of novelty and amnesia and loss of past wisdom which we may need when facing future challenges. Issues of privacy and copyright law vs. the ideal of an open Internet, and the commercialization of data are also issues needing to be addressed. With the overwhelming amount of digital data, deciding what we can 'afford' to lose, and what must be preserved, becomes a major concern.

The book is written in three parts.
Part One: Where We Come From looks at human memory, the development of writing, the printing press, and the library.
Part Two: Where We Are considers Materialism, Science, how we remember, imagination, and mastering memory in the digital age.
Part Three: Where We Are Going considers the questions that we must answer that will ensure a continuation of cultural memory into the future.

Rumsey had created a beautifully written, important book.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Michael.
587 reviews11 followers
May 19, 2016
I know the author slightly. Or anyway, we worked in the same organization years ago and had a nodding acquaintance.

I am sort of a practitioner in the sense that I have some responsibility for creation, acquisition, preservation of and then later access to digital collection materials in a cultural heritage institution as a librarian-project manager. Because of Dr. Rumsey's background at CLIR (Council on Library and Information Resources), I assumed this book would include practitioners such as myself in its audience more directly; however now I don't think people like me are the intended audience.

On the dust jacket, it says that this book "explores human memory from prehistory to the present to shed light on the great challenges facing our world today" - this is where most of the book spends most of its time. It also says that it serves "as a call to consciousness and a plan for action" - consciousness yes, but plan for action I would say not in any detail, and only in passing. (Or possibly I don't know a plan of action when I see one.)

I eventually decided I understood Dr. Rumsey's comment that the question of yesterday was, "what can we afford to save" while today it is, "what can we afford to lose" as a statement that it is no longer just up to institutions to preserve digital materials (where indeed the question still is about what can be saved and where is the money to save it) - or at least I think that is what is meant to be understood. I apparently am too caught up in being part of an institution and defining its responsibilities to be able to expand my thinking in this way.

The author is very well qualified to write a book like this. The comments by the well known figures on the back of the dust cover are entirely correct in their praise. If one has an interest in this topic, this is a book to read.

Profile Image for Darin.
113 reviews2 followers
February 13, 2017
As an an archivist and technophile, Anne Smith Rumsey has crafted a thought provoking read about a present quandary. While the influx of digital media seems like a unique historical experience, she explains how the history of media (from cuneiform to scroll to handwritten books to the printing press) has lead to similarly relative increases in information and points out the philosophical, economic, and moral consequences that can be learned for humanity's collective past.

While I bought my copy at my local bookstore, this book begs to be read from your library's collection, especially in e-book format.
Profile Image for Layla Johnston.
54 reviews8 followers
May 15, 2016
I cannot recommend this book highly enough for all information professionals. Rumsey does an excellent job weaving a narrative that is instructive and a delight to read, and her recommendations for preserving our digital heritage are on the mark. Rumsey charts the history of libraries in the Western world and the scientific understanding of personal and cultural memory to lay the groundwork for her recommendations on digital preservation. Having access to and understanding the past is of critical importance to being able to create the future. The last chapters of the book hit on the shift from analog to digital data and all that entails for privacy, copyright law, surveillance, cultural preservation, and knowledge creation. To paraphrase Rumsey: we no longer sell our labor in the marketplace; the digital data trail we create when utilizing web search, shopping online, and web browsing habits are being sold instead, by commercial third parties such as Amazon and Google. Libraries play an important role in protecting privacy, fostering culture and knowledge creation by lending copyrighted works, and preserving our shared past. The non profit Internet Archive is a great example, offered by Rumsey, of the type of project needed to ensure preservation and access to the web and other digital sources. We need more Internet Archives! A fantastic book.
Author 29 books11 followers
May 7, 2016
The author talks about how every revolution in communications technology has caused huge upheaval and how with each change there has been a long period of adjustment and tinkering before we've found effective ways to deal with the new information paradigm. The digital memory (and Smith Rumsey sees all recording technologies from cave paintings to the Internet as forms of memory) is no different. The amount of information is much greater, but we now have faster and more powerful ways to deal with that information.

It is vitally important, she says, that we preserve as much of our collective memory as we can in a format that is accessible and usable by everyone. That will be a daunting but by no means impossible task.

The one factor that she doesn't address in "by no means impossible" scenario is the fact that server farmers and digital archives use lots and lots of energy, energy that may very well not be free much longer.
Profile Image for Joy.
420 reviews
April 18, 2016
2016. 025 SmithRum03/2016.Nonfiction. 'What is the future of human memory? What will people know about us when we are gone?' Research Notes are from page 180 -229! Very readable, insightful.. quotes: 'our sense of well-being arises directly from our ability to imagine moving forward, into the future, with purpose meaning and some measure of choice over our fate.'pg 132 in describing Alzheimers' . The fear of Cultural Amnesia.
The Library of Congress has archives of Twitter.. Google spent 21billion dollars in 2013 on data centers that process as well as store data for use..dependent on the cost of energy. etc
I recall a book, in a school library in the 1980s, title lik' The Turning Point'..It has haunted me since my first view of a CD disk. The story was of a future without historical memory, a girl finds such a disk.. No way to find the memories encoded.
Profile Image for Abigail.
1,266 reviews7 followers
August 9, 2016
I work in an academic library and we read this book as our summer staff book club pick. We....were not impressed. Mostly because none of us felt like Rumsey did what she seemingly set out to do in the title and description of the book. She tells a lot of disconnected stories that I don't even know how they fit together or add to her thesis (which is also unclear). I went through the whole thing thinking she needed both a better outline and editor.

The vignettes are disjointed and don't seem to connect to each other in any way, the sections are haphazard at best, and I have no idea what Rumsey wants to have gotten across by the end of the book other than we can't escape the digital world. No kidding, that's why I read this, I thought you had some ideas on things we could do to protect and manage the plethora of data.

It just left me (and the book club) frustrated and unsatisfied.
Profile Image for Kristine.
3,244 reviews
May 14, 2016
When We Are No More: How Digital Memory is Shaping Our Future by Abby Smith Rumsey is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early December during a dull moment on trivia night. I admit, I was drawn to this book by its second-glance blurred pixel cover.

An amazing, lengthy, anthropological loose timeline of data having to do with communication and human progress. Utterly insightful and fascinating.
Profile Image for amy.
663 reviews
April 23, 2016
Some beautifully written and moving moments in the middle chapters, especially stories about how memory can go awry. But kind of scattered overall. The concluding chapter reads as though Rumsey meant to kill her darlings but relented and put them all in one chapter instead. Finally, this book takes for granted that solutions for the future of digital memory lie in Western knowledge traditions, without making a convincing case that this is so.
297 reviews4 followers
May 30, 2016

A thought provoking exploration of cultural memory and how it will survive in the digital age. The author doesn't damn digital information. That ship has left the dock. Her goal is remind us of how we must find ways to preserve the flood of information now bombarding us.
Profile Image for Hom Sack.
493 reviews10 followers
June 18, 2016
As a historian, the author presents an interesting and engaging account, but she lacks a comprehensive understanding of digital technology. Consequently, I think her concerns are much ado about nothing.
Profile Image for Abbie.
148 reviews21 followers
August 1, 2016
Books like this have a bad habit of not actually being about their stated premise. I picked this one up at the library hoping it'd be different. Alas, 'twas not to be.
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