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archives society of alberta
NEWSLETTER
September 1996    Volume 16 Number 2


THIS'LL CHIP AWAY AT THE COST OF STORAGE FOR PERSONAL ARCHIVES, BUT THE ARRANGEMENT AND DESCRIPTION COULD BE A BIT TIME-CONSUMING.
From The Daily Telegraph, London. Reprinted in the Calgary Herald, July 18.

A computer chip implanted behind the eye that could record a person's every lifetime thought and sensation is to be developed by British scientists. "This is the end of death," Dr. Chris Winter, of British Telecom's artificial life team, said Wednesday.

He predicted that within three decades it would be possible to relive other people's lives by playing back their experiences on a computer. "By combining this information with a record of the person's genes, we could recreate a person physically, emotionally and spiritually."

Winter's team of eight scientists at BT's Martlesham Heath laboratories near Ipswich calls the chip "the Soul Catcher." It would be possible to imbue a newborn baby with a lifetime's experiences by giving him or her the Soul Catcher chip of a dead person, Winter said.

The proposal to digitize existence is based on a sound calculation of how much data the brain copes with over a lifetime. Ian Pearson, BT's official futurologist, has measured the flow of impulses from the optical nerve and nerves in the skin, tongue, ear and nose.

Over an 80-year life we process 10 terrabytes of data, equivalent to the storage capacity of 7,142,857,142,860,000 floppy disks. Pearson said, "If current trends in the miniaturization of computer memory continue at the rate of the past 20 years -- a factor of 100 every decade -- today's eight megabyte memory chips norm will be able to store 10 terrabytes in 30 years.

British Telecom would not divulge how much money it is investing in the project, but Winter said it was taking Soul Catcher 2025 very seriously. He admitted there were profound ethical considerations, but emphasized that BT was embarking on this line of research to enable it to remain at the forefront of communications technology.

"An implanted chip would be like an aircraft's black box and would enhance communications beyond current concepts," he said. "For example, police would be able to relive an attack, rape or murder from the victim's viewpoint to help catch the criminal."

Other applications would be less useful but more frightening. "I could even play back the smells, sounds and sights of my holiday to friends," Winter said.