Technological innovation is a boon to time, to data sharing and to the imperfect nature of human beings who are far too capable of losing forever things that are precious to them.
In our time-poor society, there is a marked desirability for anything that does a task more efficiently – and that applies to the storage and search of personal data as much as anything else.
Consider an ongoing case study from yours truly. My parents being of an age where they are minded to get everything in order, piles of documents and photos have been arriving frequently from my childhood home.
These, encompassing school reports, baby pictures and all manner of things inbetween, are fascinating to look back on and hold emotional and entertainment value for me now, as well as potentially my children in the future.
But these flimsy paper and card memories have done well to get this far reasonably unscathed bar the odd coffee stain – and won’t last indefinitely unless I scan them to make them into a more permanent record by the standards of our time. Which, to be fair, is pretty unlikely.
Not to mention that they can’t simply be pinged over in an email, requiring physical transport as well as storage on arrival. So you’ve got to be very determined to share them successfully, and confident the recipient will like them enough to keep hold of them safely.
Consider the difference with photographs, in particular, now – synced to the cloud, stored on our phones or computers to leaf through at will – and its clear how much the shift to digital has revolutionised our data as well as our lives.
My parents are reasonably tech savvy these days, but my children will never know the delights (and frustrations) of waiting to get your holiday photos back from the chemist, so you could see what you’d actually taken and whether it was remotely in focus.
To them – to all of us, these days – pictures are as instant as the memories that generate them. And in all likelihood will survive longer.
Life still has to catch up with technology in terms of what happens to our collections of data after we die, but they exist at scale, and can be stored and shared with ease by both parties.
Which is pretty magnificent in itself.