forget itOr what the machine can learn from the apparent human weakness of forgetting.

In everyday life, human forgetting is commonly perceived as a weakness. The ability to forget unimportant information makes sense and in many areas is even necessary for survival. You are now wondering why? We live in a time when knowledge means power and prestige. Possessing and maintaining knowledge is seen as the ultimate achievement, and forgetting is mostly seen as a damned defeat.

Why forgetting is important

Let's just look at the following simple example: You take a 20-minute ride on your cargo bike from your front door to the hardware store in the neighboring town: just the visual, acoustic and emotional impressions during this short ride - getting on and driving off, concentrating on the road traffic Raindrops on your glasses, thoughts about weekend planning, remembering your shopping list, etc. - these everyday experiences already create a breathtaking flood of information. And so it makes perfect sense that our short-term memory allows us to forget a lot of irrelevant information in a flash.

If we were to store the infinite number of daily impressions, feelings, and emotions as collected knowledge completely and for a long time, the memory of our brain would be overfilled within a very short time and the amount of useless unstructured information would paralyze humanity - or drive it mad. The magic word is therefore selection. The simple division into relevant and irrelevant information determines the effectiveness of our trading and our success - or even our failure.

On the other hand, electronic data storage, the ability to collect data without limits, was considered one of the greatest achievements of mankind from the start. But the blessing of big data has now turned into a curse. Various studies by renowned university institutions have shown that employees in companies now have to deal with around 70-95% ROT data, i.e. redundant, obsolete and trivial data - and the trend is rising!  

Exit strategy required for data

There is no exit strategy for outdated data. This not only leads to excessive demands on the individual employees, an enormous additional effort with rising costs, but also to a high susceptibility to errors with critical security risks. The violations of the GDPR add an additional nagging problem. The uncontrolled mania for collecting on a wide variety of storage media from hard drives to the cloud also causes enormous environmental damage, green data is just a catchphrase here.

"Then just forget it!" You would like to shout out loud. Quick action is required and, given the exponential growth in data, urgently needed. But it is well known that you cannot get rid of the ghosts that you call so easily. Where the human brain has the function of forgetting, IT immediately needs new forms and developments that banish ROT data from the user's point of view. Greater transparency and security must be ensured very quickly, and data must be handled efficiently and in an environmentally friendly manner.

Intentional forgetting is a research focus

In the "Intentional Forgetting" priority funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), computer science and psychology are jointly researching how human conscious forgetting works and how forgetting can be implemented in computer systems.

“What means deliberately forgetting can be illustrated very well using the example of" mucking out at home ". You have to consciously consider what you want to keep, i.e. leave in the memory and what you can give away, i.e. forget or delete. We all know that such decisions are cognitively complex, ”says Prof. Dr. Ute Schmid, who is researching the Dare2Del project at the University of Bamberg. "It is exhausting to come up with good criteria as to what you want to keep or not and to assess whether you would need something again in the future."

Why scientists try to teach forgetfulness to the computer 

In the Dare2Del project, Schmid deals specifically with deleting files. In other projects, for example, it is about forgetting to forget about routines. According to your expertise, the permanent collection of data leads to more and more storage space requirements, especially in the cloud. And it is precisely such large storage farms that require a great deal of energy and thus have negative effects on the environment. "My psychology colleague in the project was also able to show that a lot of irrelevant data can also put a mental strain on you," explains Schmid. "Especially with unstructured storage, the large number of files can also mean that you can no longer work so focused and efficiently."

migRaven.24/7 relieves the short-term memory of your file server 

Companies such as the Berlin software developer migRaven GmbH have also recognized the need and developed an adequate solution. Thomas Gomell, software architect and expert in effective data and authorization management has therefore been in charge of developing software that scans the mountains of data on the file servers in companies and analyzes them at lightning speed. Unnecessary data is automatically archived on the basis of defined metadata. However, the user still retains access to the archive. This gives the responsible users the security that they still have access to accidentally archived data. Because it is precisely the fear of making mistakes that often leads to a downright "extinguishing blockade" in the minds of employees. In addition, with the use of this effective solution, companies save working time, energy and noticeably reduce costs.

Because only when the irrelevant disappears from the daily field of vision, new things can be applied. The human brain has known this for a long time, but unfortunately artificial intelligence has yet to learn it.