February 25, 2003
The Bracketing of Existence

No scissors, no paper, no rock. My recent experience with catastrophic data loss prompted, for me, some fundamental questions about just who I am, without the data I produce. If I'd had no record or memory of anything I'd ever thought, is it any different than if I'd died? I mean, except for the having new thoughts and experiences part, is it any different than if I'd died?

Melodramatic, yes, but evidently I'm not the only person to think so. Though I may be DriveSavers' biggest data-recovery repeat customer, I am not its most dramatic. I know this because I was never transferred to Kelly Chessin, in spite of how I cursed God. So I could have been more melodramatic than I was.

But it still raises questions about the phenomenological qualities of data and what can be said to exist in its absence. Think, for example, of all 12,000 citizens of the independent republic of Nauru, which went off the grid over six weeks ago. The phosphate stripped money-laundering Nauru, now millions of miles further from us than it ever was; we have better dialogue with the collapsing edges of the universe than with this "self-managed centre". Husserl's "bracketing of existence," yes, and "liminal horizon," sure, but Big Optics indeed.

Posted by kevin slavin at February 25, 2003 04:25 PM

see: Joe Gould

and this also reminds me of a non-definitive book on my shelf at home: "Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation." Which is to say, after you die maybe your memories and thoughts aren't actually gone. There's something to live for.

or, see: Henry Darger

Posted by: dbrown on February 25, 2003 04:34 PM

See also: Borges

Posted by: Kio on February 25, 2003 05:40 PM

Also, if we're gonna get all phenomenological, then apropos your question: is it like being dead? What about the fact that even if you lose all your data (memories or bits), other people still remember and or own copies of some of your data. Somehow I think this Kelly lady talks a lot about that with people, right?

I say this having served as 'external hard drive' (in the form of both memories and bits) for someone (need we name him?) with a lousy memory and bad luck with data.

Posted by: Kio on February 25, 2003 05:46 PM

Well, if we're going to get fancy, then really, that external hard drive part is also part of how we stay alive after we're dead, say some. Jews, for example. Say some jews.

Posted by: Kevin Slavin on February 25, 2003 05:58 PM

Yes. Memory as well as Memories. But also this.

Posted by: Kio on February 25, 2003 06:06 PM

so an external hardrive of people is sorta like a living blog. i mean, isn't that what 'community' used to be all about. the elders as archive, the youth as new threads.

Posted by: elia on February 25, 2003 10:56 PM

Let us not forget Funes the Memorious. In him we may find some comfort in data loss, lest we be "benumbed by the fear of multiplying superfluous gestures."

Posted by: tmonkey on February 26, 2003 12:36 AM

"I'll note you in my book of memory"

Posted by: Kim on February 26, 2003 02:35 PM

can't resist: and this. Though there's another level there. Experience becomes literature becomes memory.

Posted by: dbrown on February 26, 2003 02:56 PM
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