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Biotech Microsoft

Backing Up Your Brain 204

couch_warrior writes "Microsoft is now working on a system that will back up the contents of your brain. The pilot project lacks a direct brain interface, but "MyLifeBits" will provide a simulacrum of actual memories. No mention is made as to whether Microsoft will claim to own the digital rights to the content of your life, or what license fees you will have to pay to access your own memories." Honestly this looks like a bunch of hooey to me, but I figured others would be better suited to say.
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Backing Up Your Brain

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:43PM (#21366789) Journal
    Alright, I can't take it anymore. I don't know how many times I've read about this story on Slashdot.

    So instead of going on a tyrranical rant about this and bringing CmdrTaco's mother into it, let's look at how we could avoid this in the future.

    I don't know what the administrative interface looks like for Slashdot, hell, I haven't even been given mod points yet despite regular meta moderation. But I'll bet that if you plugged the domain restriction plus the title of the proposed article into your favorite search engine, you could avoid 75% of all dupes. So in Google, this article would be: Backing Up Your Brain
    And here's the link if you're lazy [] which results in some pretty good hits:

    So two very relevant articles, maybe they're dupes, maybe they're not.

    But what if it was possible for the admin to select keywords/phrases from the submission and have that generate search links to the search engine. Two obvious ones would be Gordon Bell [] and the de facto dupe finding token MyLifeBits [site].

    And with that last one, we come up with Backup Your Life on a DVD [] and Recording Your Entire Life []. Two very similar articles to the subject at hand (the Gordon Bell search has no dearth of articles either). A few minutes of linking this to Vannevar Bush and you find Your Life On a Hard Drive [].

    If this is an update piece and you want to update us on the project, at least link to the plethora of articles related to it! My god, how many times must we discuss this man's dreams to do this? Where are the results already? I swear every single time this comes up, it's mere speculation. The editor even says so after the summary!
    • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:47PM (#21366873) Journal
      What happens when half of what is recorded is you looking at 'past memories' on your pc? Does this echo logarithmically through the storage system until you are considered dead when there are no new memories being added?

      Does the management software manage to do what CmdrTaco cannot? Remove dupes?
    • Yeah, it's definetly been here before.

      I just find the whole idea that microsoft would take your rights to your content away from you. A lot of authors use MS Word (many publishers require the format, and OpenOffice still screws up a couple of formatting issues when saving into word 97/2K/XP). I've yet to hear any complain about MS taking their stuff. For that matter, all the photos, videos and documents (word, excell, etc.) that I had stored on my Windows machine? None were taken by MS, and they all work fi
      • by OECD ( 639690 )

        None were taken by MS, and they all work find...

        Are you sure about that?

        (Yeah, yeah, but it was low-hanging fruit.)

        • $ sudo pkg_delete typod

          must not have worked... Guess that's what "typod: package not found" meant...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by TheLink ( 130905 )
      Well maybe the regular dupes are because the Slashdot editors are using a prototype brain backup device and every so often they use move instead of copy. :)
    • by Huntr ( 951770 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:54PM (#21367031)
      They aren't dupes.

      They're backups.
    • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:02PM (#21367181) Journal

      Slashdot, like most media, has to attract eyeballs. If they printed on the frontpage "no news today" they wouldn't be making any money. So the slashdot editors have the task of keeping a steady stream of stories on the frontpage. So that when you visit it, you get some new story to read.

      But not yet any story will do, it needs to be a story that people will react to. So that they post comments, so that it looks like an active site.

      A slashdot story where ALL you needed to know was in the headline and had no room for discussion, well, you could just get that from the RSS feed, no page load, no ad load, no eyeballs.

      You posted a comment to this story, I posted a comment to you. Mission accomplished. All you have shown is that the story attracted eyeballs.

      In Terry Pratchets discworld book "The Truth" the patrician (local ruler) makes an observation about a newspaper. "Ain't it nice how there is always just enough news to fit the page, no spaces left open or anything".

      The newspaper needs to be full, it needs to get read. That is a newspapers mission.

      If you really want to tell the editors to stop doing this. STOP REPLYING.

      Oh, and there is another thing to consider, slashdot is NOT a news site. It is an intresting things site. Nobody ever claimed that intresting things have to be new.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Oh, and there is another thing to consider, slashdot is NOT a news site.

        Look up... a little bit more... there it is: "NEWS FOR NERDS. STUFF THAT MATTERS."
      • by kebes ( 861706 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:21PM (#21367491) Journal
        I think you might be creating a false dichotomy. We all understand that Slashdot has to attract eyeballs, and thus has to keep a constant flow of interesting/catchy stories on the front page. However what is at issue is the presentation of those stories.

        In particular, the GP wasn't saying that Slashdot should be a news site, or even saying that dupes are an egregious sin. Instead, he was providing possible ways for making such stories useful instead of aggravating. It is indeed aggravating to read something only to discover that it's more-or-less the same thing you've already read, but much less so if you're forewarned about how this fits in with previous stories. Slashdot has made some progress in this department (with the "Related Stories" links), but more work needs to be done. A "dupe" isn't necessarily bad if it is framed properly (e.g. "here's an update on X" or "it's been awhile since we've heard about X" or "for those of you who missed the last story on X, here's another one"). I'm pretty sure that people will still load Slashdot, still join the discussion, and so forth. What we are asking for is not that every article be totally fresh and original, but that summaries are accurate and useful, which means pointing out how the current news/article differs from previous news/articles on the same subject (if it's a dupe, just say so!).

        For those of us who like Slashdot and read many of the stories, unlabeled dupes are annoying... and we want to help fix the situation. An upgrade to the Slashdot admin interface (which tries to auto-detect dupes or related links) is one solution. Another one, which would exploit the collective memory (and detail-oriented nature) of Slashdot readership would be to allow people to add "related links" to articles (preferably at the firehose stage). If enough people add the same link (maybe weighted by karma), it is probably not linkspam and can be promoted automatically to be displayed. This would give editors information on related stories, and allow them to better judge the novelty of a submission.
      • by Eccles ( 932 )
        In Terry Pratchets discworld book "The Truth" the patrician (local ruler) makes an observation about a newspaper. "Ain't it nice how there is always just enough news to fit the page, no spaces left open or anything".

        Newspapers don't necessarily have the same number of pages every day. Slashdot doesn't have to have the same number of stories every day.

        ESPN, though, can have a challenge filling the news on slow sports days (for example, the day after the baseball All-Star break.)
    • This sounds like dime novel sci-fi

      In the future, you will be able to download your brain. Do this near the end of your life, then upload it all into a clone's brain. You can live forever!

      Yeah, right.
      • by Gulthek ( 12570 )
        Hell no! I'm not going to wait until my current body is at death's door before doing a critical backup! I will maintain many incremental backups and a few key complete backups. Every year on my birthday I will go through a complete transfer to a clone body. Don't leave something this important to chance at the last minute!
      • Been done, and well. See for instance Lois McMaster Bujold's "Mirror Dance". Actually, read all of the Miles series. It rocks.

    • Maybe I'm the only one, but I don't mind dupes. Most(as in 9/10ths) of the time I've missed the first article and if I've read the story before I just skip it. In addition, I don't pay for Slashdot. I'm so cheap I even block the ads using AdBlock+ so that I don't even have to think about not paying money to someone. So give the admins a break guys...
    • That was also mentioned in the "As We May Think" article in the July 1945 Atlantic Monthly. Just in case you don't happen to have a copy of the July 1945 issue of Atlantic Monthly here is a link:

      As We May Think [] (from July 1945 issue of Atlantic Monthly

      Of course there was also the "The Final Cut" with Robin Williams from 2004.

      The Final Cut []

      Then there are also various Science Fiction books and articles such as "The Heaven Virus."

      The Heaven Virus []

      I see that Microsoft is looking into this now. I

    • I don't know what the administrative interface looks like for Slashdot, hell, I haven't even been given mod points yet despite regular meta moderation.
      If your curious as to what the interface look like you can download your own copy of the code that runs slashdot here: []

      Now you can award yourself as many mods points as you want :)
  • by Roadkills-R-Us ( 122219 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:43PM (#21366791) Homepage
    That's why you hear a loud beeping sound!
  • by AustinSlacker ( 728596 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:44PM (#21366805)
    Not a MS basher per say, but I am not sure I want MS messing around with MY registry...
    • Not a MS basher per say, but I am not sure I want MS messing around with MY registry...
      You meant "kernel", right?
    • I don't see what the problem is, all you have to do is power off the .... Oh wait.

  • Oh Lots of fun (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JamesRose ( 1062530 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:44PM (#21366813)
    Lets make up rediculous products, claim a company is working on, and then slag of the company for their behaviour managing the non-existant product that hasn't even been developed.
    • I sure as hell don't want mircosfort bracking up my bain.

      I think if I get wind they are, I will just start a diary of false stuff, like embarrassing things that they don't want associated with them.

      Would be interesting to see if they censor out bitch sessions about shitty experiences with vista, or false claims of another leaked wish list, or advance disclosure court proceedings our out-of-court settlements.

      I guess in that case, THEY will decided whether our brains get full, incremental, differential or "SC
      • For me, the backups are okay.
        The only thing that scares me as hell are the restores.
    • I don't know what your problem is. I've been doing this since I began work on my plugin for Mozilla's sock sorting machine. While sorting socks, my plugin will also check for holes in the heel/toe and report to you the number of socks that need to be repaired or replaced.

      You people who insist on an invention being, well, invented before working on derivative software for it are crazy. My patents alone should keep me in the market for years.
    • It's real (Score:4, Informative)

      by everphilski ( 877346 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:09PM (#21367305) Journal
      It isn't a brain backup device, it's a little recorder that you wear around your neck. It takes snapshots throughout the day and records sound. The software on the computer also allows for archival of various documents, etc. Stuff gets associated and it essentially becomes a surrogate memory.

      A good, extensive writeup can be found in Fast Company []. The original article is over half a year old and this idea from Gordon Bell has been known for years: he started working on this project in 1995.

      Bunch of drama queens on slashdot talking about "omgz vaporware" "Microsoft doign what neuroscience cant? omgz" Read the goddamned article, not the FUD summary.
    • No, no, let's pump and dump their stock. And pump and dump the stock of companies that do the actual research, as their funds wind up diverted into the nonsense.
  • Apparently they still have bugs to work out... some people are reporting massive data loss [] in the beta program...
    • That kind of mirrors the experience I have been having with the open-source alternative: GNU/Brain (its in the Debian repos). I get my head plugged into the USB port, mount my brain with GNU/Brain and cp -u /brain/* /dev/null, and after a couple hours it comes back with an exit status of 0, all fine and dandy. Yet, inexplicably, when I go to check on my backup, nothing is there. I lost the memory of my wedding day (although, mysteriously, my divorce is still quite intact).

      This is the same thing that h
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by russ1337 ( 938915 )

        I lost the memory of my wedding day
        are you sure you've not aliased in :
        ls -l brain | keg_of_beer | grep *wedding*

        I put everything my wife tells me to /dev/null to make room for more interesting stuff, like movie quotes.
  • Can of Worms (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HugePedlar ( 900427 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:45PM (#21366831) Homepage
    Yeah, nice idea. No really. But imagine the conflict with copyright laws... or even wiretapping! Any time you take part in a private conversation would you have to get permission to record or distribute - what about recalling a concert you went to?
    • indeed, DRM the song/video file so you need to pay every time you want to access it. brain viruses, trojans, rootkits, buffer overflows, domestic spying, advertising, crime law enforcement etc... all your memories are belong to us.
  • You're right... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Arathon ( 1002016 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:47PM (#21366877) Journal
    This is definitely hooey. The article does the worst job of 'advertising' a technology that is nothing more than a glorified data collection device.
  • this is kind of like (Score:3, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:47PM (#21366883) Homepage Journal
    taking reservations for transatlantic flights in 1880

    or selling land on the moon... wait a second!? []

    this microsoft brain dump is obviously hokum, but in all seriousness, our ever growing hard drive densities, and the ubiquity of cameras nowadays, means the day is not far off when a newborn will be born and given a tiny innocuous camera implant on the side of his head, and his entire life will be videotaped

    this is appealing and horrifying on a number of different levels

    and it is probably only 5-10 years off
  • by Roadkills-R-Us ( 122219 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:48PM (#21366895) Homepage
    Microsoft wants to restore your memories. Do you allow Microsoft to restore your memories?

    [X] Yes [] No

    [X] Always trust Microsoft to restore your memories
  • Movies and music (Score:3, Insightful)

    by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:49PM (#21366913) Homepage

    No mention is made as to whether Microsoft will claim to own the digital rights to the content of your life, or what license fees you will have to pay to access your own memories.
    Wow, sounds a lot like the XXAA -- implant memories into individuals and create common experiences in society -- then charge for each access to recall those memories and experiences.
    • by J0nne ( 924579 )

      Wow, sounds a lot like the XXAA -- implant memories into individuals and create common experiences in society -- then charge for each access to recall those memories and experiences.
      I didn't know the GNAA charged people for access to Goatse...
    • I have read a few Sci/Fi stories and seen a few Sci/Fi movies about that kind of thing. Perhaps someday we will be able to learn college subjects such as Calculus by downloading an implantable memory of the subject. In the future, college students might be able to choose between downloading calculus in a few hours or spending several semesters taking several calculus courses. That might work best with subjects such as algebra, calculus, physics, electronics and computer programming.

      It would probably be

  • *how* (Score:3, Interesting)

    by andreyvul ( 1176115 ) <andrey.vul@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:49PM (#21366915)
    are you supposed to back up your brain if there's no brain interface in the first place?
  • by mezron ( 132274 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:51PM (#21366975)
    So how often will I be able to change my mind before I have to reactivate?
    • So how often will I be able to change my mind before I have to reactivate?
      As many times as you want. Unless you get a lobotomy, or a sex change operation, of course. But those details are in the fine print of the EULA.

      Now, if you lose your mind, you have to buy another one. Ain't technology great?
  • This is why you can't patent warp engines isn't it? Yeah, the idea may be nice... But if it's nothing but an idea you're going to squash any sort of REAL research in this area with announcements like that aren't you?
  • Clippy! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 )
    Clippy popped up during my honeymoon:

    It looks like you are trying to have an*l s*x?
    Do you want assistence with that [Y] [N]

  • I suppose its possible to go around with a camera and a microphone and log everything. But for the ethics of it, see the movie The Final Cut [].

    Who's gonna control your memories when you die? Do you really want to record everything, even when you cheat on your significant other? Do you really want to record when you're jacking off? Or taking a dump?

    • by Eccles ( 932 )
      Hell, there are a few things I wouldn't mind wiping out from the original, much less a copy.
      • Hell, there are a few things I wouldn't mind wiping out from the original, much less a copy.

        Yeah, if this catches on we'll need to write some Photoshop filters for the mind.

        Like Gaussian Blur.

    • potentially dangerous as people would also "mis-quote" your life, showing only the bad things out of context...

      I suppose its possible to go around with a camera and a microphone and log everything... you're jacking off? Or taking a dump?
      It's easy to do.

      On a side note think of the porno memories you could put in! and on a bad note the memories people could fool you into installing! ahhh! Forget it, I don't want this technology now..
  • because after digitizing your life you'll probably realize how much it sucks
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:04PM (#21367231) Homepage
    Basically, what this guy wants to do is to have you carry a videocamera around 100% of the time, always on. Then they have software to analyze what it hears/says.

    He describes this as your memory, as an attempt to make it seem important instead of silly.

    It is this artifical record he is talking about, not your real memory.

  • First off the Fox article says the folks @ MS think that a 1TB drive will be less than $300 by 2010??? Uuuh..

    Second.. Can anyone say "Oh shit, my Windows OS just got infected and now all my memories are V14gr4 and c14115" ads..

    Third .. *sigh* nevermind
  • by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:13PM (#21367373)
    "All of your ideas belong to us."
  • Fixed it. (Score:2, Redundant)

    Honestly this looks like a bunch of hooey to me, but I figured others would be better suited to say.

    Honestly this looks like a bunch of hooey to me, but I posted it on the front page anyway.

    There. Fixed it.

    -Grey []
  • by imikem ( 767509 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:25PM (#21367575) Homepage
    * MS Memories Home Basic (TM) - You're told that you have memories, but this version can't restore them.

    * MS Memories Home Premium (TM) - You're allowed to restore "up to" 10 memories, with a list of restrictions covering a page in 3 point text, notably that only individual, not shared nor professional memories are permissible.

    * MS Memories Business (TM) - Restores any job related memories. As if anyone wants to remember them.

    * MS Memories Ultimate (TM) - Any and all memories can be restored, or they would if the driver for your brain was functional. There's even "Extras" that will provide supplemental memories for those with exceedingly boring lives, such as readers of /. At least there will be once the next upgrade is released.
  • restoring (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FranTaylor ( 164577 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:28PM (#21367637)
    Backing up is easy, it's the restoring part that's hard.
  • by mattr ( 78516 ) < minus cat> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:28PM (#21367649) Homepage Journal
    TFA does not in any part of it say "backing up your brain". It does not say it gives you "a simulacrum of your memories". It does give some clear explanation of research they are doing, which is not new.

    It is not "hooey" either, as the web really is a memory extender just try Google. Or ask Ted Nelson, whose work on Xanadu hypertext for example is tracable to his own faulty memory which he overcame by carrying ring-bound cards on his belt.

    The only problem with this of course is that Microsoft is involved. They are inevitably going to spread their smarmy-feely corporate crap all over it. And you know what's going to happen, you will see people buy other people's lives (as a 100GB file download of multimedia clips indexed by time and location) and act all superior and shit.

    They always describe these things in glowing terms that make you think of your Mom scanning in family photos to email her kids but in the end they end up owning your ass. That part of it wasn't hooey.

    Now an open source version of this would be cool. I wouldn't have to write stuff down, just surf back a la Time Machine or if anyone has tried it, Gelernter's Mirror Worlds which was an interesting Java desktop demo that puts you in mind of the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. If someone tagged bits of their lives meaningfully it might be useful, even restaurants might get better service.
  • by oatworm ( 969674 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:29PM (#21367669) Homepage
    They're working on backing up our brains? Great! In the meantime, let me know when they actually get a backup solution for Windows Server that doesn't make me want to compulsively attempt to kill myself from alcohol poisoning after using it.

    P.S. Whose idea was it to include Active Directory with System State and not let you restore one without the other, hmm? Maybe I don't WANT to restore the rest of my registry.
  • I'm looking forward to seeing the new tag "hooey" [] become the most popular at Slashdot. And, if measured by Google hits, the very definition of "Slashdot" (the noun).
  • Should have the Monty Python style bare foot icon.
  • Please feel free to join me in protesting this silly story. This is certainly not biotech, no matter which way you slice it.
  • So, my father held a PhD in Chemical Engineering from CalTech, and had a wonderful life full of rich experiences. He passed away 3 years ago, and in the subsequent time since then, I have come to realize I really didn't know my dad. He did leave a lot of information behind (life story, records of important events, etc), but (while this article is a dupe, and MS isn't getting anywhere near my noggin, etc) the idea of being able to crawl through the data / memories in his brain is admittedly very appealing.
  • OK, forget that fact that there is no interface, but what about 'yang' to the 'yin'? Can't have backup without restore, right? And what about brain formatting?

    First, would you let a M$ product restore your brain? Maybe read-only, but write privileges, I think not!
    Second, don't you normally experience a 'crash' in order to need to use a backup copy?
    Third, assuming a crash of significant proportion, not just some slight amnesia, there would have to be either a dead body to restore to, which doesn't do muc
  • by CambodiaSam ( 1153015 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @03:15PM (#21368451)
    We're sorry, but your brain does not appear to be genuine. You will now be placed into limited functionality mode.
  • BSOD? (Score:4, Funny)

    by jav1231 ( 539129 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @03:21PM (#21368541)
    "Dude, the sky sure is a pretty shade of blue!"
    "Uh, we're indoors. You're brain just BSOD'd!"
  • Now let's get this out of the way: I don't have a criminal record, and I've never committed a (nontrivial) crime. But I don't like this idea, because it would reduce my ability to commit unobserved future crimes if I ever found it necessary to do so.
  • The issue is not backup up, but how to access it. I'm pretty sure I have many, many more bits of data in my brain than I can easily access. If anyone comes out with a product that improves recalling ability, I'm all over it. But not if it has Windows written on it.

  • by steveoc ( 2661 )
    I wonder if those particularly nasty memories that I have of having once been forced to use windows, and not liking it at all, will be stored verbatim ? Or will they be re-interpreted in transit as some sort of WOW moment that made my whole life seem worthwhile ? No thanks. If I need to backup my brain, Ill just write a cron job myself to rsync it to another standby brain that I keep in the fridge (just in case).
  • I'm sorry, your memory format is no longer supported. All Microsoft Brain products only work with Remembers4Sure stored memories. We understand your need due to head injury but we are unable to assist you at this time.
  • I'm guessing it'll be released shortly before Duke Nukem Forever...
  • by dskoll ( 99328 )
    Blue Screen of Brain Death.
  • The idea of recording one's entire life has been around for decades, and people have been doing this on and off for at least a decade before Microsoft got in on the act. It's really mostly a question of cost, (electrical) power, and privacy, not any particularly fancy technology.

  • You have failed to register your baby's mind. Your new user will not be allowed to form memories using Microsoft Thinking Suite Home Edition.
  • They plan to fit it all in 640K.
  • Ignoring the lack of point to the parent story, I have to wonder how many people would embrace and how many would be fearfully wary of direct-to-brain communication. Seriously, once we reach the point where it is possible to have bi-directional communication with the human brain, society is probably going to have some major problems?

    Think that the situation with computer viruses is bad now, think that lack of a voting trail is scary... how about what happens when somebody managed to "hack" the brain of a
  • backups are useless without restores.

    the good news is, you can use all your write-only memory for this.

    the bad news is, the major collection of write-only memory is the human brain. test takers of the world, am I right or what?
  • Does that mean you were less fulfilled than someone who got a few volumes out of theirs?

    Can you do incremental backups over time or is each backup slightly larger than the previous one?

    If I'm using a memory during the backup do I get a "memory-in-use" failure?

    What If i fail to remember something one time but remember it another time? How do I reconcile that?

    Can I screw with other people's backups?

    The questions only multiply...

  • ... I really don't see any innovation here. Isn't this what youtube already does? I mean, I basically post everything I've ever seen and heard to youtube already. Backing up my brain would just be redundant.
  • Its backed up on tape somewhere.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie