Microsoft is working on a project that will allow you to upload every memory and experience into what New Scientist magazine has dubbed a “surrogate brain.”

The project, called MyLifeBits, is in development at Microsoft’s Media Presence lab in San Francisco, according to a New Scientist report.

The goal is to overcome what Microsoft engineers are calling the “giant shoebox problem.” We accumulate so many artifacts and experiences but have difficulty organizing them. This contributes to exaggeration, confusion and forgetfulness. A digital memory box could help, say the engineers. “Imagine being able to run a Google-like search on your life,” says Gordon Bell, one of the MyLifeBits developers.

Proof of concept

Bell will present a working model of the concept at next month’s Association for Computing Machinery Multimedia conference in Juan Les Pins, France. He has logged everything possible into his own MyLifeBits database — apart from official documents such as his passport. He even records phone conversations and meetings.

Media files are tagged and audio files duplicated as text so that they’re searchable. MyLifeBits will also display timelines and allow searches by date, and can also build narratives using different criteria, describing the times you and a close friend spent together, for example.

Bell believes the system will help people with memory problems, and that people in general will come to rely on it more and more. It also has implications for avatars operating in place of real people, as they could answer questions about your history as well as — or possibly better — than you.

While the system currently eats up huge amounts of memory, the group working on the project predicts that within five years a 1000-gigabyte hardrive will cost less than $300. This would provide enough space to store four hours of video every day for a year.


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