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Microsoft wants to back up your brain, and the blog as OS

The Times of India has an article under the intriguing title "Microsoft plans `back-up' brains for humans". Oh, yeah, I thought, Uncle Bill is exactly the person I want in charge of digitizing my soul. (Via Reenhead.)

It turns out upon reading the article that the Microsoft proposal is less sexy than the headline implies. There's no spectacular high-bandwidth meat-to-silicon interface in the works. Rather, Microsoft seems to be rewarming some of the ideas of Yale CS prof David Gelernter. His Lifestreams project proposes that your computer's operating system be organized chronologically (rather than hierarchically) as a big archive of everything you do -- in other words, blog as OS.

Gelernter hasn't exactly sold me on the Lifestreams concept. Sure, chronology is a useful way to access information -- "ls -lat" is my favorite Unix command. But it's only one of many, and one of the main strengths of computers is that they facilitate multiple methods of access. I suppose I should try it before I knock it, though; there seems to be a beta version of Lifestreams available under the name Scopeware.

Gelernter is an intriguing character for other reasons, one of which is that he was one of the Unabomber's targets. And his 1992 book Mirror Worlds anticipates the day when all interesting systems -- infrastructural, economic, environmental, social -- are captured and modeled digitally, something I think of every time I check the Houston traffic online. In a sense, Lifestreams is an individualization of the Mirror Worlds idea.

toys 2002.11.23 link