Philippe Masset

Engineer at Buffer.

The future of our past

November 2012

Old books and vinyls

My family and I move quite often: we usually never stay in the same place more than four years. As a matter of fact, we moved from Cannes to Grenoble less than a year ago. And not even a week ago, we also had to empty the house where my dad lived for most of his childhood.

If you already moved, you should be able to relate when I say it's an arduous though pleasant undertaking.

It being arduous might have to do with the fact that you have to put your whole house into boxes, move them and unpack them all into your new house.

But despite all the packing and handling, moving places is also about stumbling on long-forgotten photos, postcards, books... And that makes moving an amazing experience.

When my dad was combing through old boxes looking for things to keep in this house his father built himself, I can only imagine the great joy he felt the time he found this high school notebook, immediately triggering memories of his best times there. Or when he narrated to me how much time he used to spend in this small, dusty room full of electronics as he was going over each one of them.

And that led me to notice that all these things making him nostalgic were objects - physical objects: photo albums, vinyl records, letters...

What will we leave behind us when growing up? Photos, videos, ebooks, emails, texts; that's nothing more than zeroes and ones on some hard drive, is it?

Long gone will be the pleasure from flipping through the brittle pages of a flimsy photo album. Long gone will be the excitement from feverishly opening an old and dusty book you had forgotten about for several years. Long gone will be the pleasure from re-discovering your past.

At least that's what I greatly dread.

The slipping toward virtually entirely digital lives is ineluctable, so the one thing to hope is that we quickly come up with other means than our dull screens to dive into our past. Augmented or virtual reality through head mounted displays or immersive rooms might be the start of an answer, and I'm eager to see how this kind of technology could be used at home for that purpose.

In the meantime, let's agree that technology is definitely both a blessing and a curse.