When I think about how poor my memory is, I know that there is a lot I’m just going to forget, not because I just don’t care or think it’s unimportant, but because 1) I’m a guy and 2) I don’t remember details so much as impressions and also how to find those details again. The internet is becoming our collective mental hard drive. It’s far better at storing data for individual long-term memories as well as for shared memories (what we might called culture transmission and shared knowledge). This off-loading of long-term memory from our brains means our short-term mental RAM can become sharper.
Still, we’re human. We remember certain experiences with the utmost vividness, even decades afterwards. Whether they are traumatic or pleasurable inflection points, they profoundly affect our characters. Just think about your relationship with someone close to you. Perhaps you will remember impressions of many days spent together, but you will remember certain key moments down to how the air smelled or what song you were listening to. The rest sort of fades away.
This is our passion and our personality. The way we react intuitively and immediately to certain situations. Highly dependent on our most vivid memories of something similar.
Yet, all that discarded memory can be important too. Certain memories may strike you differently and more profoundly at some other point in your life. But since it wasn’t relevant at the time, maybe you forgot it.
One project I’d like to work on is reproducing the magic of a moment digitally, whether it’s the profound or not so profound.
The profound is easy. You would want to remember your first kiss. You would want to remember how you felt and looked when you graduated from something. You would like to see the looks on your family’s faces when they were so happy with something you’d done.
Certainly an age of everyone recording videos of each other is coming. It leads to accountability, transparency, and reviewability, among other things. If you’re not recording, everyone else will be. Once cameras become cheaper and more ubiquitous, this is inevitable.
But what I want to do is create new moments. Say you want to create a moment for your girlfriend who lives a long way away. You’ll likely not see her for a while. You can write a letter or email, or send a gift, sure. But it’s not quite a shared experience. It’s a one-way communication in many ways.
I would like the ability to create something like a moment quest. I would let her know that she has a moment quest ready for her. In order to receive the message or gift or news that I want to give her, she will have to complete a series of actions or mini-quests in order to unlock the moment made especially for her. Perhaps the tasks are shared tasks that you do online together. Or they require both of you to complete. At any rate, the quest is something the two of you shared together, and thus, when the reward comes at the end, the reward is fused with the journey taken to receive it. This is a moment.
You can craft better moments. Ones that incorporate story-writing, taking photos, sharing sights and smells and thoughts, ones that require going out to complete mini-quests like going to four sushi joints. Ones that require you to talk to your mom and dad first. Ones that send you on a scavenger hunt or a digital Odyssean quest.
There’s even the story about the wedding gift a man made for his newlywed friends which consisted of a locked box that had a button on it. The box said the newlywed couple would have 50 presses of the button to figure out how to open it, or it’d stay closed forever. Pressing the button would give simply a distance to the target, and the number of remaining guesses. So the box had a GPS unit in it, and it was telling the couple how far they were away from a location which, when the box detected it, would presumably open the box. It turns out the box was on some charming island where the man had first started having feelings for the woman. A great wedding gift.
I don’t accept the divide people make between the digital world and the “real” world. The two are converging. History in the future will show an intimate relationship between the two — you’ll have to interact in both worlds to do many jobs, I’m sure of it. What if we could move past bias against one type of world, and just create more quality moments with those we care about?
When we’re on our deathbeds, aren’t those quality moments all we’re going to really care about?