Why a personal black box is a good idea


One of the most important rights that nobody talks about is the right to remember. Consider every interaction in your daily life. If you could review your actions at the end of the day, you could improve yourself. If a salesman makes a false claim, if someone tells a lie and you hear it, there will be a record of it. If you park your car at the 3rd floor garage and think you might forget, instead of taking time to snap a picture with a phone, simply recite the location and should you forget, you can review the recording to find it. If you get raped, or if you get falsely accused of rape. Even if something cool happens, if you freestyle a cool song by accident, if you come up with a great idea. If you experience something, if you see something, if you do something, you have a right to remember.

Even if you’re in a situation where you think you might not survive – maybe a disaster, crime, or even a heart attack too far from emergency services, simply tell your loved ones you love them, and when they find your recording they will get to hear your voice one last time. Perhaps such a feature could be incorporated into dog tags for soldiers.

Now I don’t think wearing a spy cam everywhere is feasible, and it is too intrusive and too obvious for most people to handle. But, I think that given the prevalence of cheap electronics, the ease of concealment and the immense benefits, it is a wonder that no company has yet to come out with what I would consider a personal black box. Nothing as temporary as a wire taped to your shirt, but maybe a bracelet like a fitbit that you wear on your wrist, shock proof and waterproof, with battery that lasts a week of recording and years of audio will fit onto a single storage card. Maybe, you could have a wireless module that periodically uploads to a remote server.

Of course, depending on functionality, such devices are definitely not fool proof. People could maliciously destroy it. It probably won’t survive direct contact with lava, or space. But a simple recorder would definitely increase social transparency by leaps and bounds, and greatly help in situations where human memory fails to deliver. No more false confessions. No more fast-talking trickery, no more fallacies go unchecked. No more missed details when you space out.

Of course, such a device would face fierce opposition from the copyright industry and privacy advocates. To the privacy advocates, I say you lose your right to privacy the second your sounds get within earshot. To the copyright industry, its even simpler: fuck off. My right to accurately record whatever happens to me during a listening trumps your right to stuff your fat-cat pockets with royalties.

If everyone wore a personal black box, there would be greater accountability, people would have greater capacity to self improve, and lives would be saved. So any budding electronics company out there, this ain’t exactly high tech stuff so get on it!



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