of accumulating each and every
piece of information, no matter
how trivial or elaborate, related
to the whole life of a single
human being becomes feasible?
Would we then be able to re-create a complete and accurate representation of that person—not
only her appearance, actions,
interests, and habits but also her
personality and way of thinking?
And what if, instead of feeding this model into software
applications and services, we
presented it to its rightful
human owner? In this case, the
biggest obstacle that we would
probably stumble upon would be
that of data rendering, or how
to present such massive and
diverse, and potentially chaotic,
data in a structured, meaningful, and comprehensible way.
For the sake of our hypothesis, let’s suppose that we
eventually manage to create an
appropriate rendering machine,
which we entitle the Ambient
Mirror—the contents of which
are accurate, noncontroversial,
Then, the first thing that one
would probably ask is, “Will
the person in question be able
to recognize their actual self
in this digital reflection?” You
see, humans tend not to keep
a “high resolution” account of
who we are, what we think, or
what we do. Instead, we draw
a rough sketch of ourselves
based on a small, and sometimes fictitious, portion of the
available information. Our
brain constantly filters millions of details, retaining only a
few important facts or events,
often creating idealized, mitigated, or aggravated versions of
them. Furthermore, over time,
much of this retained data is
forgotten, corrupted, pushed
back, or merged.
If we somehow manage to get
a satisfying answer to the aforementioned question, then the
next step would be to identify
possible “applications” of such
a tool and assess their potential usefulness, as well as their
impact both to the individual
and the to the society as a whole.
Personal Use of the
On an abstract level, the Ambient
Mirror can be described as a tool
for recording past personal experiences. Over the course of a few
thousand years, humans devised
and used several other tools for
the same cause. Indisputably, the
first one was memory. Then came
the spoken language, writing, as
well as art, mainly in the form
of painting and sculpture. In the
modern age, the task is further
facilitated through a multitude of
electronic devices such as microphones, photographic/video cameras, and computers. Of course,
all these “traditional” means will
also be basic constituents of the
Ambient Mirror, but in a novel,
pervasive (and probably miniaturized) manifestation, as well as
integrated with additional monitoring technologies and reasoning components that will extend
their grasp and complement their
abilities. Table 1 illustrates an
attempt to sum up the foreseen
differences between past practices and the Ambient Mirror.
The data-collection process is user initiated and user driven.*
The target person is always aware* of the personal data-recording process and means and also knows what kind of data is being recorded.
The means used for acquiring the data have a physical, monolithic manifestation.
The recorded data comprises only disjointed fragments of the
person’s bodily and mental activities.
Data are recorded “as such”, i.e., exactly in the form in which they are
produced. Any correlation or interpretation is the result of post-processing by their retriever.
The retriever views and/or listens to the data from a third-person
perspective (i.e., like watching someone else).
The data-collection process is self-triggered, taking place everywhere,
Many different types of data about the target person are constantly being
recorded without her knowledge or consent.
The means may be distributed and embedded in the building blocks of
the environment, or may even be immaterial (a software sensor).
Theoretically, the recorded data comprises each and every detail of the
person’s bodily and mental activities.
Correlation and interpretation of various data is done on the fly, at the
same time that it’s being produced. Such “meta-data” becomes part of
the recorded information and becomes timely available to the retriever.
The retriever can experience the data from both an “exocentric” (i.e., third
person) and an “egocentric” (i.e., first person) perspective.
* Except in cases of wire tapping or surveillance.