Quick news: Review of “The future of looking back”

Greetings. This is just a quick post to point you to a new review of Richard Banks’s The future of looking back (Microsoft Press, 2011; ISBN: 9780735658066), the first book in our Microsoft Research series.

The review, by David Ozab, begins like this:

As I sit at my laptop writing these words, I am surrounded by objects: a bookcase full to overflowing, pictures on the walls, photo albums tucked into a file cabinet, and a closet full of clothes. A room filled with stuff—some practical, some sentimental—and at least some of it will last long enough for my daughter to have to sort through someday.

Yet will these objects be the most important things I leave behind decades from now? What about the thousands of photos my wife has taken? Or the hours of video we’ve recorded? What about all the words I’ve written and will write—millions I hope—before I die? All these “objects” are just as real to me, and will be just as real to my daughter, as the items that fill this room. But they are not real in the same sense. They are data—an uncountable string of zeros and ones—that reside on one or more hard drives, some in this house and others on remote servers. What about them?

In The Future of Looking Back, Richard Banks discusses the difference between real and virtual artifacts and how our acts of reminiscence will change as more aspects of our lives become digitized. He asks several intriguing questions: What will replace the shoeboxes filled with photos and the collections of vinyl records and CDs? What kind of heirlooms will we leave behind? How will we reminisce about our lives and the lives of those we love when we no longer have physical objects to hold on to?

You can see the book’s current reviews on Amazon here.

By the way, Bill Buxton wrote the book’s Foreword, which contains this food for thought: “The nature of legacy may well trump short-term coolness.”


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