Web Investigator KK is one personal web investigative resource for searching thousands of online sources, and public databases.
I once thought the world of the internet would be the same as before, only faster. In fact, it’s altering every corner of human life.
In this future, the past has been forgotten. Not entirely: there are still a few rebels who cling to whatever memories they can pass on, in whispers and in defiance of the law. But all they have are fragments, many of them misremembered. Navigating their way around the ruins of a post-apocalyptic London, they travel up Great Poor Land Street looking for Kings Curse or Waste Monster (perhaps the latter name is not so mistaken). They gather in a slum they know as the Limpicks to worship the giant metal figure of the Red Man – unaware they are in the Olympic Village of 2012, bowing down to the Orbit.
Such is the vision set out in Memory Palace, a new novella by Hari Kunzru and also the centrepiece of a V&A exhibition. Like all dystopias, it aims to say something about our own time. Specifically, it urges us to see the value of today’s technology, forcing us to realise how much we would miss it if it were gone. In Kunzru’s story, civilisation was destroyed by the great Magnetization, when all digital data was wiped at a stroke.
That notion contains a warning about the fragility of memory. Humanity increasingly stores its collective knowledge virtually, in the clouds, making it vulnerable to catastrophic loss. But even without a global disaster, memory is at risk. Things we used to remember – quotations, phone numbers – we now outsource to machines: why learn Kipling by heart, when you can Google it?
More troubling, perhaps, we are depriving future generations of the memory of us. Read the early chapters of Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher and it’s clear he, and therefore we, would have only the sketchiest picture of her youth were it not for the stash of letters she sent her older sister, Muriel. There will be no such letters written by the prime ministers of tomorrow who are adolescents today. Though we now reveal so much more – teenagers especially – we leave behind so much less. Texts, tweets and Facebook updates exist in abundance, but they rarely provide the depth of a letter. And few would bet on them surviving 70-odd years…