Part I: Timelessness*
I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries. By which I mean, the way in which boundaries — constraints, limits, and borders — can be useful and productive. I’ve mostly been thinking about this in terms of where boundaries have gone missing in the technological age.
The Internet is vast and unending, and when we sit down at our computers in the mornings, or the evenings, or any of the odd hours in between, there are no limits to how far we can wander; how long we can sit, following link after link; how long into the night our conversations with the infinitely broad community of the Internet can continue. There are also few limits to the lifetime of our online lives; with a Google search, the past does not naturally recede with the passage of time. The present does not necessarily come first. The tension between the timelessness of our digital lives and the in-time nature of real life is playing out in both directions.**
Google and the Right to Be Forgotten, The New Yorker (9/29/14)
Convicted criminals who want to escape the taint of their records are also out of luck when it comes to petitioning Google. “Somewhere between sixty and a hundred million people in the United States have criminal records, and that’s just counting actual convictions,” Sharon Dietrich, the litigation director of Community Legal Services, in Philadelphia, told me. “The consequences of having a criminal record are onerous and getting worse all the time, because of the Web.” Dietrich and others have joined in what has become known as the expungement movement, which calls for many criminal convictions to be sealed or set aside after a given period of time. Around thirty states currently allow some version of expungement. Dietrich and her allies have focussed on trying to cleanse records from the databases maintained by commercial background-check companies. But Google would remain a problem even if the law were changed. “Back in the day, criminal records kind of faded away over time,” Dietrich said. “They existed, but you couldn’t find them. Nothing fades away anymore. I have a client who says he has a harder time finding a job now than he did when he got out of jail, thirty years ago.”
Google’s project to ‘cure death,’ Calico, announces $1.5 billion research center, The Verge (9/3/14)
Google introduced Calico to the world with the bold ambition of “curing death.” CEO Larry Page, Google Ventures head honcho Bill Maris, and futurist Ray Kurzweil, who Google hired as its director of engineering, have all expressed a deep interest in radical life extension and the Singularity.
(a) Drugs that lengthen health span are becoming to medical researchers what vaccines and antibiotics were to previous generations in the lab: their grail.
(b) Doubtless, death is a loss. It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and children. In short, it deprives us of all the things we value. But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss.
*I have no idea how many parts this will turn out to be. Maybe only 1.
** I desperately wanted to include a link about the irritating new design trend on media sites of hiding the publication date. Medium comes to mind, but many many others. When a story was published matters to me, and I loathe this trend in which when is erased. But it seems so obvious when I put it in this context of the Internet’s bad boundaries with time. This is also why digital journalists deadline is often “before anyone else”; the only time that exists is now, so that’s when the story must appear.