I do really stupid things sometimes.
I mean, I suppose that as poor decision making goes, mine are relatively minor. Still, I have those few things in my past that I deeply regret, just as we all do. My poor decisions, though, aren’t confined to the past. Take the recent holiday weekend, for example. We decided to have a family trip to the beach, and it was our daughter’s first experience with the ocean. I forgot to take any photos. That’s something that I regret. There’s something about the day that I regret worse, though. Our daughter was having great fun throwing sand everywhere. When my attention lapsed for a moment, she bombarded Karen with sand, ruining her lunch as she was unpacking it. In a moment of frustration with myself for not watching her closely enough, I snatched the toy shovel from our daughter’s hand. She cried, looking at me hurt, not understanding. I apologized and snuggled her, and her sadness had passed a few seconds later. Still, I hope that, later in life, she doesn’t remember that incident. I hope that she doesn’t remember my raising my voice in frustration with her normal 2-year-old behaviors, either. And, even while I tell myself that, I recall how impressed I am with her memory and ability to articulate things, and I am deeply afraid that she will.
I want my poor judgement to be forgotten.
Sort of like how my car insurance chose to forget my last speeding citation. I know that I made a mistake, and I’m looking for the chance to move forward from that.
Anything similar spring to mind for you? I imagine so.
This is the sort of thing that I think is at stake as we discuss the right to be forgotten in our online world. It is a relatively simple matter of choice for one human being to forgive the wrongs of another. It is more difficult for our legal system to do so, as it is based on punishment instead of rehabilitation. It is impossible, however, for any of us to truly forget the wrongs that someone has done, or for them to forget ours, because anything that has ever been known to more than a trusted confidant (and perhaps even then) can be found on the Internet. A record can be pieced together from some combination of sources, and those records can be found by anyone with enough keystrokes and motivation for research.
For every mistake that we’ve made, everything that we long to be forgiven or hope never sees the light of day, there is a Lisbeth Salander who is motivated and capable of discovering the information and using it to potentially harmful results.
I think that information should be able to be erased, at least where it directly involves people, because people are more than the sum of their choices. People make the decision to move forward and become someone better every day, and many do so successfully. Given the right circumstances, we would all welcome the chance for a fresh start. This is most difficult to do, however, if nothing that we’ve done can ever be forgotten.
In short, we all long for forgiveness from something. If, however, we remove our collective ability to forget, are we inhibiting our ability to forgive each other, as well? Because forgiveness is a critical part of the human experience, and it is often at odds with the information structure that we have put in place around us.
A world in which we are inhibited from forgiving is a poor world in which to live. I think that, for the sake of everyone, some information should be considered deletable from the public eye. Does this fly in the face of what the Internet is, of the great cultural resource and equalizer that it is? Can anything be applied as a universal standard, including our knowledge as a human race? An interesting conundrum we face as we charge forward to our future, isn’t it?