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The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger

Cloth | 2009 | $24.95 / £16.95
256 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 1 table.

e-Book | 2009 | $24.95 | ISBN: 978-1-4008-3128-9

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Viktor Mayer-Schönberger
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Delete looks at the surprising phenomenon of perfect remembering in the digital age, and reveals why we must reintroduce our capacity to forget. Digital technology empowers us as never before, yet it has unforeseen consequences as well. Potentially humiliating content on Facebook is enshrined in cyberspace for future employers to see. Google remembers everything we've searched for and when. The digital realm remembers what is sometimes better forgotten, and this has profound implications for us all.

In Delete, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger traces the important role that forgetting has played throughout human history, from the ability to make sound decisions unencumbered by the past to the possibility of second chances. The written word made it possible for humans to remember across generations and time, yet now digital technology and global networks are overriding our natural ability to forget--the past is ever present, ready to be called up at the click of a mouse. Mayer-Schönberger examines the technology that's facilitating the end of forgetting--digitization, cheap storage and easy retrieval, global access, and increasingly powerful software--and describes the dangers of everlasting digital memory, whether it's outdated information taken out of context or compromising photos the Web won't let us forget. He explains why information privacy rights and other fixes can't help us, and proposes an ingeniously simple solution--expiration dates on information--that may.

Delete is an eye-opening book that will help us remember how to forget in the digital age.

After ten years on the faculty of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is director of the Information and Innovation Policy Research Centre at the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He is the coeditor of Governance and Information Technology: From Electronic Government to Information Government.


"After a decade or more of books examining digital technology's consequences for the law, politics and society, we are finally beginning to see interesting books that talk about its effect on the individual. Delete is a highly promising (and often fascinating) first effort to spell out the problems, and to think through how they might be engaged."--Henry Farrell, Times Higher Education

"A fascinating book. . . . [Mayer-Schönberger] argues that technology has inverted our millennia-old relationship with memory. . . . So what's the solution? Mayer-Schönberger argues that we need to stop creating tools that automatically remember everything. Instead, we need to design them to forget."--Clive Thompson, WIRED Magazine


"If the gathering, storage, and processing of information puts us all in the center of a digital panopticon, the failure to forget creates a panopticon crossbred with a time-travel machine. Mayer-Schönberger catalogs the range of social concerns that are arising as technology favors remembering over forgetting, and offers some approaches that might give forgetting a respected place in the digital world. Read this book. Don't forget about forgetting."--David Clark, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Delete is, ironically, a book you will not forget. It provides a sweeping but well-balanced account of the challenges we face in a world where our digital traces are saved for life. These issues transcend just issues of privacy but go to the heart of how our society and we as individuals function, remember, and learn. I highly recommend this most informative and delightful book."--John Seely Brown, University of Southern California, coauthor of The Social Life of Information

More Endorsements

Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
CHAPTER I: Failing to Forget the "Drunken Pirate" 1
CHAPTER II: The Role of Remembering and the Importance of Forgetting 16
CHAPTER III: The Demise of Forgetting--and Its Drivers 50
CHAPTER IV: Of Power and Time--Consequences of the Demise of Forgetting 92
CHAPTER V: Potential Responses 128
CHAPTER VI: Reintroducing Forgetting 169
CHAPTER VII: Conclusions 196
Notes 201
Bibliography 219
Index 233

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For customers in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Asia, and Australia

Cloth: $24.95 ISBN13: 978-0-691-13861-9

For customers in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and India

Cloth: £16.95 ISBN13: 978-0-691-13861-9

Our e-Book editions are available from many of these online vendors

Prices subject to change without notice

File created: 10/15/2009

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