On Facebook, your memories are owned by other people

There exists a photo of a precious moment in my life. A fond memory with good friends, and a good photo thereof. I don’t know the photographer well, but I was tagged in it years ago, and so it was seamlessly entered into my memory.

Recently, I was browsing tagged photos of myself when I realized it was gone. I scrolled back up, down, searched, but there was no trace. The photographer had deactivated.

The centralization of Facebook has been a boon in the boom times. We have yet to fully appreciate its cost. What happens when, not just a sporadic few, but the masses turn sour, and begin their exodus? If they just stop logging in, we’ll get a ghost town, an archeological gold mine for ages to come. But if they deactivate their accounts, a massive repository of cultural consciousness will be obliterated, chunks at a time.

When Peak Facebook comes — and it will come — this global hive mind will enter senescence.

How will it feel?

Like a living cell feels in a dying man. An old man in a dying generation. The last few members of a tribe, or a bloodline, or a name.

Like Winston Smith remembering seeing a photo of which no external trace is left; remembering seeing people whose existences have been erased, dropped into a memory hole, over an artificial event horizon.

Like an offline family in a rural town in the mid-21st century, when the USPS has forfeited the Universal Service Guarantee.

Like Jane in the Ender Quartet as the ansibles of the philotic web in which she lived were turned off to starve and kill her.

Like the protagonist in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you will watch as precious moments are whisked away into oblivion.

What of “hell is other people” if we live in their minds and wither without them? (Haven’t we always?)

In the process, we will rediscover forgetting, and rediscover our own memories. And act again as individuals.

And we will grow old and die, and our cells will briefly act again as unicellular individuals.

And then will starve of oxygen and die, and their constituent atoms will act again as individuals, no longer alive, incapable of self-replication.

And if protons decay….

And then what? Does a bit decay? Into the unknown.

If we don’t learn to harness exponentially greater power sources, our development as a species will soon hit its bounds. It’s a corner we’ve never turned, but we can imagine today how it might feel. Like this.

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