This is the question that Microsoft researchers Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell are attempting to answer.
The talented researchers recently published a book titled Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything. In the book the pair summarise nearly a decade of effort to record digitally everything in Bell's life. This included what he saw, what he ate, felt, read and his entire life experience.
The effort comes from a project that both Bell and Gemmell worked on at Microsoft Research, MyLifeBits. The idea was to capture a lifetime's worth of articles, books, cards, CDs, letters, memos, papers, photos, pictures, presentations, home movies, videotaped lectures, and voice recordings and stored them digitally. Storing this data would then make you paperless so Bell wanted to begin capturing phone calls, IM transcripts, television, and radio. The project really kicked into life in 2003 when Lyndsay Williams' SenseCam was introduced. SenseCam is a wearable digital camera that is designed to take photographs passively, without user intervention, while it is being worn. Unlike a regular digital camera, SenseCam does not have a viewfinder or a display that can be used to frame photos. Instead, it is fitted with a wide-angle (fish-eye) lens that maximizes its field-of-view. The MyLifeBits software built up a database that supported hyperlinks, annotations, reports, saved queries, pivoting, clustering, and fast search. The idea was to not only record the information but be able to access it easily and fast at a later date.
The vision is inspiring and what the pair have already achieved is certainly impressive. According to Gemmell "we get every kind of reaction, from people who are scared of the concept, usually because they don't truly understand it, to people who are really excited." He explains "in the future, it will be the exception to not be able to recall something. Certainly, everything you ever read—all your correspondence, books, and articles—you'll be able to instantly search through. If I want to look at some topic, what are the things I've dealt with? It will be instantly available to you. That will have a huge impact on learning, people's professional lives, and any hobby they're interested in."
Would you be happy documenting your whole life into a database which you could search back on? At least if you ever had an argument with your partner you could rewind and see who was really right, but remember guys a woman is always correct.
For more information on Total Recall, MyLifeBits and the Microsoft Research SenseCam please visit Total Recall.