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The Financial Express
Swasti Lankabangla Swasti Lankabangla

Memories in a Mindbook?


Memories in a Mindbook?

I asked a poor rickshaw-puller Keramat Mia, who earns an average of Taka 500 a day, why he had chosen to have a Facebook account. "After a daylong toil pulling my rickshaw," explains Keramat, "I go home, tired and hungry. I take my shower and dinner and waste no time going to bed with the smartphone that opens to me a fabulous world of entertainments. The importance of Facebook and YouTube is no less than that of my food, drink, or sleep."

Facebookers spend hours at a stretch, sometimes days and nights on end, browsing Facebook pages and walls, clicking 'likes', writing comments on posts and occasionally leaving posts on their walls, expecting in return 'likes' and 'favourable comments'. It's pretty intoxicating---burning midnight oil, remaining glued to Facebook.

There are of course tactics that result in getting more 'likes' by attracting people to pay attention to your "feel-good-posts", engaging them with the contents that, if interesting, would be shared by your friends and then by friends of your friends making your words and pics spread like a wildfire. Using proven and provocative contents in your posts that may resonate with other facebookers gives them the best chance of going viral.

But what will happen to our Facebook accounts after we die? Of course, I can nominate a "legacy contact"-- someone, a friend or a relative, who, after my death, may look after my memorialised account. He or she can announce my death, write a pinned post, respond to new friend requests, and even update my profile picture, but can never delete my posted contents. Many, however, are yet to know how to keep a dead man's Facebook profile alive following Facebook's memorialisation policies.

There is an African proverb that says: "When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground." The proverb is especially true for a man like Kermat Ali who doesn't know how to read, hardly wrote a note, let alone write a book. But he has stories to tell. He has memories which could be stored in tomes that could form a library. Who will note down his insightful experiences? Small events of his life that at the hand of a writer or a painter could be turned into masterpieces constituting a library? Can his Facebook provide a conduit to travel to his stories?

Since time immemorial, we humans have used tools in our arsenal to fight against time's cruelty to whitewash our existence. We scratched paintings on cave walls, engraved on stones symbols to convey our feelings, we orally passed history on to our progenies, preserved photographs and movies in an attempt to freeze time, and are now recording our life events on Facebook timeline--always wondering what if our stories could live on long after we're gone!

We don't have many places where we can write honestly about things that matter the most to us. Facebook doesn't debar you from posting anything you fancy. Of course, they would immediately delete your posts if you are too unbridled. Facebook invites you to open your heart, provides you a free space to express candidly how you feel, allows you to ventilate your emotion in posts that can be therapeutic. They want you to leave your footprints on your Facebook walls. They perhaps have their long view to creating a mega library of pictures and thoughts of billions of people who would be living in this world.

The original idea behind creating Facebook was to allow people to share creative ideas, funny pictures, thoughtful recommendations and, in the process, befriend people. But, many of us wrongly (or rightly) treat this medium as a diary, to write thereon personal posts, sometimes with great details. Not bad, if the prosaic details of posts are archived for future anthropologists to analyse the Facebook stories and draw vivid pictures of generations.

Leashed or unleashed, Facebook posts, like all other electronic records, with megatons of data have come to stay for the next hundreds of decades. Future armies of scientists living on this planet or traveling from distant outer spaces will not have to sweat much to mine all these electronic data to reproduce tales of our planet. They would be spared of the painstaking labour the archeologists and hieroglyphists have undergone to decipher the inscriptions engraved millennials ago on stones and clay tablets.

It's human nature to fight against the finality of death. Well, if we can't live on after our time on earth is over, we at least want to be remembered.

We know we won't ever be able to write death off. But we have developed vaccinations to cheat death for a while. We have attained the power to push the boundaries of death further and further into the future and engineers are now even working on technology that could be able to create wholesale copies of our memories that will live on after we are burned or buried. We may never be immortal physically, but scientists can perhaps give voice to our untold stories that are hidden deep in our memory shelves.

The next niftier version of social media, I like imagining wildly, probably would be a gizmo, a robot-like being or an App that would be equipped with the smartest artificial intelligence. The App may probe into our memory compartments and download onto our laptops all our experiences, all our stories that happened since our birth. Exactly the way we now use our brain's processing power to retrieve onto our mind's screen 'the first day we saw a butterfly hovering over a flower', 'the first fear we felt seeing a snake', 'the grammar lessons that we had learnt in our school days'. We may name the gizmo 'Mindbook', can't we in rhyme with Facebook, that would read our minds and act according to its cyber conscience. Robots like an android filled with our mind files, our beliefs, our values will eventually be our vehicle to convey our stories indefinitely into the future.

How wonderful it would be if we could save our mind like a computer's hard drive, recording everything we know and all that are stored in our memory, the moments of our victory and defeat, the lies we told and the truths we learned!

After several unsuccessful attempts, on December 17, 1903, Wright brothers flew for 12 seconds, traveled a distance of 120 feet, and reached a top speed of 6.8 miles per hour at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA. Now we have jets that fly for hours at 35,000 feet above in the sky and some hypersonic aircraft that travel at more than 10,000 km/hour, which is more than 9 times the speed of sound. What should stop the stretch of our imagination to hope that one day a robot-like clone of a person's total mind might be created?

maswood@hotmail.com

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