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Microsoft's Lifebrowser Is a Prosthetic For Memory

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the enhanced-interrogation-techniques dept.

AI 64

holy_calamity writes "This article talks about software from Microsoft Research that looks like a smarter, more private version of Facebook's timeline. Lifebrowser uses machine learning techniques to process photos, emails, web history, documents and other data on your computer and automatically create an interactive timeline with an awareness of what's important and what's not. Lifebrowser is intended to be a prosthetic for memory. When a user searches their archive for specific information, Lifebrowser presents notable photos and other information to aid recollection."

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64 comments

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Oh.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390237)

but if it's private then it's useless. I mean, why have a life if I can't show off?

Re:Oh.. (1)

LilGuy (150110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39393019)

I concur. Which is why I post anonymously... er...

Results may vary (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390247)

When tested in the field, unintended results may show up.
I.e. pr0n being central to the average geek's computer life.

Re:Results may vary (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390365)

great, now i can use timeline features to track the evolution of my favorite pornstars' tits.

Re:Results may vary (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390521)

Porn star tits don't evolve, they were intelligently designed.

Re:Results may vary (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39392139)

The final evolution. [potpiedeluxe.com] Although she only does nudes, she is so perfect that you will never need to look at another woman again.

Re:Results may vary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39393047)

Unless you're married... then you still have to look at HER every night before bed.

Re:Results may vary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390675)

What part of that was unintended?

Bugger off M$ (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390249)

Holy Calamity indeed. Now people are willing to let algorithms invented by large profit-seeking corporations control their pasts as well as their futures and profit from their most private memories?

--Ethanol-fueled

Re:Bugger off M$ (1)

TechNit (448230) | more than 2 years ago | (#39390517)

Holy Calamity indeed. Now people are willing to let algorithms invented by large profit-seeking corporations control their pasts as well as their futures and profit from their most private memories?

--Ethanol-fueled

I completely agree. Enough already...

Re:Bugger off M$ (1)

durrr (1316311) | more than 2 years ago | (#39390797)

This could rather easily be implemented as a client-side program.

  But of course, big software want to harvest your past so it will definitely be a web-only server-side-hosted 'free' service.

Re:Bugger off M$ (2)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39391609)

If you're going to post anonymous you might want to skip the sig.

Gathers media from my computer? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390341)

Sweet, now I'll never forget what kind of porn I like.

Re:Gathers media from my computer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39401115)

Sweet, now I'll never forget what kind of porn I like.

Let me guess, you're posting on slashdot so it's Japanese schoolgirls?

And, I think I will call it, (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390357)

Bob.

I don't have a life... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390367)

...you insensitive clod!

That's all well and good. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390411)

. . .until the Silence uses them to torture/kill us

Re:That's all well and good. . . (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39391619)

The Silence is already monitoring your every move. There's one right behind you.

Re:That's all well and good. . . (2)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39391783)

The who?

Oh, them!

The who?

Oh, them!

The who?

Re:That's all well and good. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39436445)

Yeah, but as soon as I find him, I'll probably feel compelled to kill him.

Microsoft. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390451)

WHY?

I agree (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390459)

Oh this is so much amazing and interesting stuff, thanks a lot for sharing

This is a very beautiful and interesting research
The most educating one i have read today!

High School Diploma [sandfordhighschool.com]

Hey Mohammad! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390461)

Have you fucked any 12 year old boys in the ass lately? When was the last time someone killed an innocent in your unholy name? 3 minutes ago?
 
Fuck Mohammad! Fuck Allah! Fuck Islam!!!!!

could use this if it tracked offline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390463)

There's like a dozen books, TV shows and movies which I half remember, but would like to go over again.

Though there's probably a good reason I forgot them.

Vaporware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390485)

Let's just stick to articles about software that's released shall we.

A good start... (3, Interesting)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39390493)

...but I'm waiting for the real memory prosthetic, the one that integrates with my hippocampus.

I've probably got another thirty or forty years before it becomes a serious issue, but I'd like to think I'll have that option when I need it.

Re:A good start... (4, Funny)

chromas (1085949) | more than 2 years ago | (#39390519)

They were working on such a project but then they forgot about it.

Re:A good start... (1)

No, I am Spratacus! (2281684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39390619)

People already use search engines as a de facto memory prosthetic. Don't remember X, Y or Z? Just whip out your smartphone and look it up.

Re:A good start... (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39391625)

A working prototype of that was made and integrated with a mouse not too long ago. Don't have a link handy though.

Re:A good start... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39394373)

You forgot it?

Re:A good start... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39391807)

Having a Microsoft product integrated into your central nervous system give new meaning to "Blue screen of death."

Re:A good start... (1)

stevedog (1867864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39392843)

I'm not sure I want them to invent that. I can certainly see what would appear to be the utility of it, but most of the more insidious aspects of the dementiae come from degeneration in other areas (esp prefrontal, nigrostriatal, or broader (nonhippocampal) temporal areas). The loss of memory, while upsetting, really only serves as the harbinger (for some like Alzheimer's and frontotemporal dementia, anyway; for others like Parkinson's it comes after some of the other effects have already set in).

Once you consider that, you have to start wondering whether the ability to surgically (or even intravenously, once nanobots advance a bit further) inject memories into others might have more risks than benefits...

Re:A good start... (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39393231)

I'm not sure I want them to invent that. I can certainly see what would appear to be the utility of it, but most of the more insidious aspects of the dementiae come from degeneration in other areas (esp prefrontal, nigrostriatal, or broader (nonhippocampal) temporal areas). The loss of memory, while upsetting, really only serves as the harbinger (for some like Alzheimer's and frontotemporal dementia, anyway; for others like Parkinson's it comes after some of the other effects have already set in).

I can't help feeling, though, that the interface between short- and long-term memory is really where I happen. If that can be tapped, it can be preserved, restored, and eventually augmented.

Once you consider that, you have to start wondering whether the ability to surgically (or even intravenously, once nanobots advance a bit further) inject memories into others might have more risks than benefits...

There's plenty of opportunity for intentional or unintentional evildoing. But you really don't need an invasive (in the surgical sense) interface for that.

Possible Security Concerns (1)

WebSorcerer (889656) | more than 2 years ago | (#39390501)

I left a post on the Microsoft blog entry asking about this possibility, and any safeguards which they plan to put in place to prevent anyone from getting the data on your computer.

Re:Possible Security Concerns (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 2 years ago | (#39390903)

Huh? The data is already on your computer. So something that analyzed it doesn't really present much of an additional risk.

It all boils down to (1)

CSMoran (1577071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39390565)

the definition of "more private".

clippy says (1)

ldobehardcore (1738858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39390641)

It appears you have suffered amnesia. Can I give you a hand by wiping your data and starting a fresh template? The MS website has hundreds of them.

Security risk. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39390731)

All my everything. All of it. Right here in this convenient little package, conveniently organized and user-friendly, ready to be hooked directly into any "social networking" or user account profile I may so desire.

Luckily it's all on my computer so no one can data-mine it or just outright steal my identity. ...

Orwell saw this coming (1)

fragMasterFlash (989911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39390897)

"He who controls the past controls the future, and he who controls the present controls the past"

I don't want MS, Facebook or Google to control me. They are not the robotic overlords I am looking for.

Re:Orwell saw this coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39391737)

Gimme a break. TFA clearly states this is an application, not a social network site.

Re:Orwell saw this coming (2)

voidphoenix (710468) | more than 2 years ago | (#39392647)

Web applications, ever heard of them? Server-side applications? Here, read a bit: Application software [wikipedia.org] . Besides, TFA doesn't say it's an "application". In fact, it never used that word. The article does imply that Lifebrowser is intended to be used privately, but we've seen what good intentions look like after the corporate grinder.

Re:Orwell saw this coming (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#39394019)

"I don't want MS, Facebook or Google to control me. They are not the robotic overlords I am looking for."

Nobody is forcing you use any of these services and learn how to "Control" yourself.

Why do we need prophylactics for memory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39391071)

Or did I read that incorrectly?

Re:Why do we need prophylactics for memory? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#39391227)

Or did I read that incorrectly?

A prophylactic would be, for example, a condom; however, a prosthetic would be like a tongue depressor, some duct tape, and instructions.

interesting & worrisome (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39391371)

This is an interesting application of ML, but...

If you use this thing, the data on your PC may be subpoenaed if you or your loved ones are targetted in a lawsuit, or confiscated in a police raid. That machine-generated opinion about what's important to you will then be used against you.

If you are (wrongly or rightly) accused of a crime, the data on your PC may be confiscated, and run through this software by the police. The police, using Joe Average's belief in "the infallability of the machine", will use the software's idea of what is important to you as an authoritative "witness" against you.

(Prosecutor): "Ladies and gentlement of the jury, the deceased was suffocated by having a frozen fish shoved down his throat. The Mr-Know-It-All (TM) software has analyzed the data on the accused's computer, and determined that the accused was obsessed with photos of FISH!! (and boobs)"

(You): "I can explain! That thing (about the fish, not the boobs) was because of my CAT!"

(Prosecutor, voice dripping with sarcasm): "A likely story."

Parade of witnesses for the defense, testifying the accused had never been fishing, never owned fishing tackle, was afraid of water, etc...

(Jury Foreman): "You Honor, the jury finds the defenant guilty as charged! HANG THAT PERVERTED FISH-LOVER!"

CIA/IRS/FSB aid (1)

harvey the nerd (582806) | more than 2 years ago | (#39391557)

Yes, a great prosthetic for memory. It helps the CIA/NSA/IRS/FSB not forget important details.

Skroderiders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39391785)

Reminds me of the fictional Skroderiders from Vernor Vinge's "Zones of Thought" series. They were a sapient species of potted shrub who, possessing poor memories, used external computers as artificial memory aides.

Taget demographic? (1)

Savage650 (654684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39392207)

I aways wondered if there was somehow a correlation between brain damage and being a Microsoft customer.

Mind you, I'm not saying "all Microsoft customers are brain amputees". But maybe, just maybe it is that

  • Microsoft products have a special appeal to people with pre-existing brain damage
  • Microsoft products may cause brain damage in previosuly healthy people

Oh wait, i have been using Microsoft products in the past ...

Everything old is new again. (4, Interesting)

knorthern knight (513660) | more than 2 years ago | (#39392599)

Showing my age (a bit over 60). When I was a kid, we had these things called "diaries". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diary [wikipedia.org] Some people would use archaic instruments called "pens" to record what they did every day in a diary (a book with blank pages). What MS is proposing is a digital diary.

One thing I never understood... every so often, I'd hear on the radio about somebody who had been charged/convicted of robbery/rape/whatever. And one of the key pieces of evidence would be their personal diary, which police had seized. The diarists actually recorded on paper that they had committed the crime. That is beyond dumb. And I never heard of any of the defendants claiming that the police had forged the diary.

Fast-forward to 2011, and some people are being busted for crimes, thanks to self-incriminating postings on Facebook. If Microsoft's idea ever gets past the vapourware stage, expect police to have fun searching through people's personal digital diaries. No doubt some people will be stupid enough to put incriminating posts in their digital diaries.

Re:Everything old is new again. (1)

beep54 (1844432) | more than 2 years ago | (#39393993)

Didn't I just read somewhere that they are building in Utah from which they they either can or will be able to track any digital data from anywhere in the world? And, yes your landlines are also included in this data grab. I swear, it has gotten to the point where all normal news now reads like the Onion.

Re:Everything old is new again. (2)

Anarchduke (1551707) | more than 2 years ago | (#39394115)

Well obviously you want to commit murder in private browsing mode.

Re:Everything old is new again. (1)

SgtSnorkel (704106) | more than 2 years ago | (#39399427)

So this "diary" is like a blog, only printed out on paper?

Misread headline. (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39392721)

When I first read the headline a read "A Prosthetic for Money". Sounded just like Microsoft

Unfortunately.. (2)

wamatt (782485) | more than 2 years ago | (#39392887)

It will most likely sit in the basement, along with other cool MSR tech, that mostly never see buy-in from MS Product teams.

Pity really. Innovation is not something you put in a department and leave it to one side. It needs to be in the fabric of the organization. Apple has been a good example of this.

Re:Unfortunately.. (1)

Pausanias (681077) | more than 2 years ago | (#39393895)

Actually MSR is a place which buys really smart CS/Unix people, like Leslie Lamport, who wrote LaTeX, to get them to work on obscure useless shit so that they don't keep on working on stuff that's actually useful to F/OSS.

Re:Unfortunately.. (1)

wamatt (782485) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419183)

That's interesting. Do you have any objective evidence MS do this just to hurt F/OSS?

Not saying I don't believe you, just want to read more.

Good idea (1)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39392993)

If it's done right, this is a really good idea. I love being able to search Firefox by keyword for a web page I looked at last week. And I like to go back and re-read comments that I've posted to various social networks. But it sounds a little ambitious from a usability standpoint. For example, it can't have an understanding of the layout of every web site, and I wouldn't want it to index the contents every page I look at, in the hopes that it might be important.

The NSA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39393523)

...is building their own private "Lifebrowser" in Utah!

It's a prosthetic to enable our country to become an oppressive police state!

awesome (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | more than 2 years ago | (#39394191)

Now a project from Microsoft Research is trying to bring that kind of data mining back home to help people explore their own piles of personal digital data.

i would say their intent is dubious but i already know MS is run by rat bastards, so it's just going to be used against us.

More Private than Facebook!?!? (1)

ukemike (956477) | more than 2 years ago | (#39394207)

More Private than Facebook!?!

How about more stable than Windows.95
Better multiprocessing than DOS.
Better mileage than a Hummer.
More than Less than and excess of

Great idea, a couple problems (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395379)

In a way, I kind of like the idea of recording everything I say and do in a comprehensive way, stored in a big database for later retrieval. However, three problems jump out at me.

First and most importantly, if the data exists, it's only a matter of time before someone forces you to share it. The police will get ahold of it, or Microsoft will have the Windows 9 ToS include a passage that gives them rights to mine the data. Maybe Facebook will have a super fun game that can only be played if you give them access to that data. Whatever it is, we will be pushed to allow this data out, and that's dangerous.

My second objection is related to the first, and it's that I'm sure there is information that I wouldn't want to store and share. There a funny things, like I once bought an album on iTunes for a friend, of a band that I don't like, and ever since then Apple insists on recommending similar albums to me. Similarly, Spotify really wants to share what music you're listening to on Spotify, which I sort of like the idea of, except that I don't want people to know what music I listen to. I listen to crappy music, and I listen to the same song 5 times in a row. I don't need a record of that, and I don't need everyone I know to be informed of it. After listening to that same track 30 times, I'm tired of it and I might never want to listen to it again, so I don't need it stored and recommended back to me later on. In fact, I don't even like that iTunes keeps track of how many times I've listened to each track. It makes me feel weird to even see for myself that I've listened to this song 120 times when I know it's a terrible song, but even worse, I don't want anyone else stumbling across that information.

My third objection is largely a technological issue, and it may be fixed some day. However, for the time being, I still don't the we have the technology to sort through massive amounts of data effectively. I don't know about you, but I get lost searching through my own iPhoto library. It seems like everyone wants to collect all the information we can and store it all in a huge opaque database, but in practice, it doesn't work very well for me. I can't find what I'm looking for using Apple's spotlight, and Windows indexing is constantly breaking. OSX Lion has introduced a new smart folder called "my files" or something like that, with the apparent intention of making it easier to find all of your documents through this one smart folder. However, I find it often shows a ton of documents I don't care about (e.g. Outlook contacts), and it's simpler for me to just navigate the directory structure I set up in the first place. For now, this stuff still doesn't quite work.

Bet on it (1)

Kickstart70 (531316) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395573)

Maybe I was being too conservative in my timeframe when I posted this nine-ten years ago: http://longbets.org/16/ [longbets.org]

Gelernter foretold this too (1)

buckles (168018) | more than 2 years ago | (#39401521)

Most users have set up their own version of this :
- their email client is their chronological filing cabinet. The user can sort, file , flag and archive their historical records. The email client is a database of personal records where the user has meaningful control. And they like it!

Twenty years ago Gelernter proposed "lifestreams" where your entire set of data, assets and transactions would be available to you from any network node at all times.

What kind of actions/ transactions are the most immediately critical to an individual user ? Bank transactions. Security and privacy issues are and will continue to be constant.

Seeing large CS ideas move from the abstract to broad societal usage is pretty cool.

As long as I can find that critical email attachment from 2009.

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