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The University of Southampton

'Sugar cubes' will record a lifetime of human memories, predict experts

Published: 12 December 2006

"In the not too distant future a device the size of a sugar cube will exist able to record an entire lifetime of human memories," Professor Nigel Shadbolt, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Southampton, and President of the British Computer Society, will say today (Tuesday 12 December) at Memories for Life: The Future of our Pasts. The conference, taking place at the British Library, brings together leading figures from fields including computer science, psychology and neuroscience to debate the role science and technology will play in the future of memory.

"Technology has incredible potential to augment human memory," Professor Shadbolt will explain. "Devices are being developed that will make it possible to enhance our memory with artificial aids and preserve the experiences we have, not just as individuals, but also as entire communities. It's the unique combination of disciplines represented at Memories for Life today that will make these projects a reality."

Opening the conference, Professor Wendy Hall, Head of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, will outline the challenges involved in combining organic and digital memories. Professor Hall will also raise issues surrounding the capture, storage and management of memories that must be carefully considered for conceptual technologies to become reality.

Professor Hall will say: "Technology can play a vital role in memory, for example by providing an artificial aid to help those with memory disorders, or enabling communities to create and preserve their collective experiences. However, we must also consider the social, ethical and legal issues associated with technology development and how increased access to knowledge will affect our society in open, inter-disciplinary forums."

As well as predicting the technologies and discussing the trends that will shape the future of memory, the conference will also address questions including the following:

* How can technology help those with memory disorders?
* What will happen when our entire lives are available to us to look back on?
* How will this change the way we live?
* What legal, ethical and political implications must we consider?

The event is organised by the Memories for Life (M4L) Network and is intended to define the scale of trends in memory, to help experts and academics understand what to expect and to begin to shape the agenda for future research and development.

Other speakers taking part in the event include: Susan Blackmore (independent researcher), Andrew Fitzgibbon (Microsoft), Katherine Campbell (BBC), Anne Sebba (independent biographer), Robert Perks (British Library), Andrew Charlesworth (University of Bristol), John Tuck (British Library), Clifford Lynch (Coalition for Networked Information), Gareth Crossman (Liberty), Sue Gathercole (University of York), Victor Keegan (The Guardian), Richard Morris (University of Edinburgh), Tom Rodden (University of Nottingham), and Yorick Wilks (University of Sheffield). Keynotes will be given by Jonathan Zittrain of the Oxford Internet Institute, and Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire.

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