By Heart or by Hard Drive: Augmenting, Transforming and Remembering in Total Recall
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It is the claim of Microsoft researchers Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell that human memory can be augmented with a variety of computational technologies. Ultimately, they argue that a kind of ‘Total Recall’ can be accomplished, whereby every bit of experience can be stored, structured and retrieved at will, overcoming the natural limitations of the brain and completing a project of retention and self-knowledge with which human beings have been engaged since the invention of writing. Chapter one of this dissertation taps into Charles Taylor's intellectual history to show that there is a rationalist enlightenment epistemology being technologically instantiated in Bell and Gemmell's Total Recall technologies. It then goes on to show that typical biological memory might have interpretational dimensions that are left out of this rationalist formulation; a hermeneutical theory or remembering is elaborated. Chapter two then shows how technologically instantiated epistemologies can restructure cognition and change our relationship to our world and ourselves; the rationalist epistemology instantiated in Total Recall might restructure cognition in particular (potentially problematic) ways. Personal, political and ethical dimensions of this restructuring are highlighted.