The technology of forgetting


It was interesting to listen to Bernard Stiegler’s talk, he has been inspiring to some parts of my works, acting as bridges through which I can jump in between different concepts. Technics for Stiegler constitutes the tertiary memory, which he takes from Husserl. This third memory, which is different from the notion of german [memory of species] and soma[memory of individual] by Weissman, it is what Stiegler calls epiphylogenetic memory which is constituted by techne.

Technics also constitute the “already there”, a term used by Heidegger in Sein und Zeit, but I think the “already there” for Heidegger is broader, since the already there is not only technical, it is the setting of Dasein’s falleness. But there is side of technics, plays a major part in the “already there”.

Stiegler also explores from Plato, the myth of the titans, Prometheus and Epimetheus, the forgetting of Epimetheus (his fault in forgetting distributing skills to the mortals) which set the default of origin of human. In this sense, the default of human beings, is their necessity to produce technics.

The Platonic idea of hypomnesis plays an important part in Stiegler’s theory, the necessity to remember the truth which ever lost in the reincarnations, as Plato shows in Socrates’s dialogue with Meno, is also the necessity of production of differance, as a process of deferral, of temporality, as well as death in Heidegger’s thoughts.

Then we may witness the necessity of forgetting in our age, the over population of the mnenotechnology, which not able leaves traces of our being, but also narrow down the possibility of deferral, which is to say make differences.

I remember last month, when I was in a W3C workshop on the future of social networking, Julien Pye from Vodafone, compares hyperthymesia with social networking, and points out the necessity of forgetting. If we follow the logic of Stiegler, especially his take on Plato’s pharmakon nature of technicity, it is easy to claim that hypomnesis is itself a pharmakon, which is both able to cure and poison. But I think we need to further differentiate the idea of pharmakon in this case. Firstly technics as the tertiary memory, refers to the trace of a past which belongs to me but I never live; secondly the content/products of technics, which constitute a past which belong to me and I still have to live with. So technics, in this sense, is not about remembering, but there is a necessity of forgetting, in the sense, is that I demand such a forgetting.

This necessity of forgetting, is at the same time, ethical, also therapeutic. Ethical in the sense that forgetting is an important part of social, to be social you have to forget things. It is also therapeutic, since firstly it is also a necessity of remembering, secondly, active forgetting as Nietzsche says can be something positive. I am taking this therapeutic idea from Foucault’s technology of the self.

I think, technics, as the third memory has to be rethought in this context, in which, we also demand forgetting.

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