In his 1976 Reith lectures, entitled “Mechanics of the Mind”, Colin Blakemore offers a spooky premonition of big data:
“The present status of humanity is, in fact, a stale mate between the forces of conventional evolution, which threaten to punish us for breaking beyond the bounds of our biological rights, and our collective mind, which battles to pre serve our present status. What we should be most afraid of, perhaps, is the fact that, since the invention of printing, magnetic tape and computer cards, the collective mind has lost the vital ability to forget.
A principal task for us lies in the organisation of knowledge for ready access. This problem is nowhere more acute than in science itself, where the sheer accumulation of facts threatens to impede rather than to assist the progress of new ideas.
Already, the technology that supports everyday life in the developed world has become so complex that no single mind can understand it. Man might not go out with a bang of his own creation, nor freeze his race to death by stealing the energy resources oil the earth. He might simply drown himself in a flood of information; society could collapse because it no longer comprehends its own cultural inheritance.”
We now know that the risk of not forgetting is a real one, because the NSA have all our data in the Utah desert.