Lately I’ve acquired another filing cabinet. Too much paper accumulating in piles. If there’s not a filing system to hand, the natural default is to put the paper down and deal with it later. And then to put more paper on top of that and deal with it later. This is repeated until retrieving any significance from the accumulated pile becomes an act of amateur archaeology.
For a good three decades now we’ve also lived with metaphorical files, those digital wraiths that people swear at because they don’t know where they’ve saved them: the topology of a computer is as featureless as the desert in the first Mad Max movie, and those wraiths are heard laughing in collective nightmares. ‘If you knew where we were, you may not have to ford rivers of printer ink quite so frequently.’ Now that computers are routinely linked to each other, the Mad Max landscape affords ever more hiding places. If a visiting asteroid bursts your cloud, where are your PhD thesis and your childbirth videos? See it as empowering or as see it as a landscape you’d rather not leave footprints in, for most people there is digital activity left after the body has finally failed. For Mum is was only her mobile phone and some records in databases held by utility companies. There is now pretty much only the phone. She never owned a computer.
It’s easy to see how the fantasy concept of an android fills a need. Contrary to what Roy Batty thought, it’s probably only necessary to find the right cable in order to just download his memories onto whichever external hard drive is on offer that week at PC World. With people those memories really are like tears in rain. Until the backup servers kick in. Within a few days of my mum’s death I was involuntarily flooded with memories. Perhaps we’re wired that way, for the good code to survive.