A lifetime of memories in a 'sugar cube'

Memories for Life aims to record life's memories on a sugar cube sized device

"In the not too distant future a device the size of a sugar cube will exist able to record an entire life time of human memories." So says Professor Nigel Shadbolt, President of the British Computer Society, at the Memories for Life colloquium held Tuesday at the British Library.

The event brought together a diverse range of academics in a bid to understand how memory works and to develop the technologies to enhance it. It has been recognized as a Grand Challenge for computing, by the U.K. Computing Research Committee. Such challenges are international in scope and promise revolutionary advances.

The Memories for Life (M4L) concept, funded by the British Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), states on its website: "It is now possible to store digital versions of life's memories. It takes 100Kbit/s to get high quality audio and video. If we imagine someone with a camera strapped to his or her head for 70 years (2.2 x 109 seconds), that is something of the order of 27.5 terabytes of storage required, or about 450 60GB iPods. And if Moore's Law continues to hold over those 70 years (admittedly a large assumption), it would be possible to store a continuous record of a life on a grain of sand."

Shadbolt's ideas are presented more fully in an issue of the Journal of The Royal Society Interface. In it, he and his fellow authors write: "Analysing stored information to model a person's lifestyle (with potential commercial implications in the insurance and security industries), behaviour and health (the 'virtual general practitioner'), or intelligent Web pages that can adapt themselves to a person's linguistic and other competence: as examples of the kind of applications a sugar cube memory might make possible.

However, accumulating and storing a lifetime of memories will take place over a time span much longer than that since digital storage first began. Within the lifetime of digital storage so far there have many different representations of stored data, most of which can no longer be read, such as punch cards and early tape formats. Developing a very long lived stored data medium will be crucial.

The paper's authors write: "One possible development to achieve this may be an increasing move towards information being held in online managed services, with personal devices acting solely as access points." But this is no real solution; it merely shifts the problem onto the managed service providers who somehow have to migrate masses of data onto new storage devices as they arrive.

Another problem concerns information management: "As computers become increasingly able to store a lifetime's worth of memories, in various forms -- digital photographs, emails, documents, accounts, blogs, video diaries -- the question of managing such stores is becoming serious." Another problem they have identifies is multi-media searching.

The grand challenge is to embed artificial memory stores into real life, and by understanding the operation of human memory, to augment it with technological support from artificial memory storage.

Merely storing the data, even if there is 27.7TB in a sugar-cube-sized box, is not that great a problem compared to searching and retrieving data the from multi-media stores within it and integrating those with human memories and life.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Chris Mellor

Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?