'Lifelogging': Editor wears camera 24/7 for 2 months

Dec. 20, 2012 at 11:20 AM ET

Imagine settling an argument by rewinding video from an earlier conversation, or being able to find your missing car keys by checking footage from when you last came in the house.

With everyone already slapping half their lives on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, people wearing cameras on their ears or in their glasses to film every waking minute of the day may be the next step of what is known as “life-logging.’’

In an experiment of extreme documenting, Esquire editor-at-large A.J. Jacobs decided to film nine straight weeks of his life with a camera on his ear that resembles a Bluetooth device for a story that appears in the January issue of the magazine. He hoped to find out if recording everything would help his memory, make him less lazy, and force people to censor themselves around him because they knew the camera was rolling.

“We forget 90 percent of our lives, and the 10 percent we do remember is totally distorted, but we have the technology to fix that,’’ Jacobs told David Gregory on TODAY Thursday. “Think of the implications, like if I had an argument with my wife and she said, ‘Oh, you never told me that, that’s not what you said.’ I could rewind (the video).’’

While it sounded good in theory, it didn’t work in reality when it came to resolving arguments around the house.

“That kind of was a disaster,’’ Jacobs said. “It was kind of a lose-lose. When I was wrong, I was flat-out wrong, and when I was right, then she just got angry."

Using the video as a back-up for a faulty memory also had its pros and cons.

 “Sometimes that works, and other times it takes you an hour-and-half to find the wallet on the video, and my wife found it in 10 minutes looking the traditional way,’’ he said. “But I think that will change because they’re developing technologies like Google for video so you will say, ‘Where is my wallet?’’’

Jacobs was also eager to test whether recording everything would modify the behavior of those around him. Would people be healthier if everything they ate was being filmed? Would people be less likely to talk behind others’ backs if they knew it was being recorded?

“It totally affected people’s behavior,’’ he said. “No one would gossip around me, which is terrible. After a while, people did kind of forget about it and started to go back to their normal selves.’’

Jacobs believes that people recording their lives will eventually become the norm. In 2013, Google plans to introduce Internet-enabled glasses that have the capacity to display data on the lenses and record every moment.

“I think millions of people will be doing this in 10 years,’’ Jacobs said. “It sounds far-fetched, but Google glasses are coming out, and there are advantages. I think once the technology becomes easier and you can just slip on the glasses, I am going to go back to doing it because it’s really an interesting way to live.’’

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