Rumsey’s book poses a vital question: As more and more of what we know, make and experience is recorded as vaporous bits in the cloud, what exactly will we leave behind for future generations? ... Rumsey is clear about the dangers of our 'ephemeral digital landscape,' but she isn’t a doomsayer. She believes that we can protect our cultural legacy for our descendants, even if that legacy ends up mainly in the form of immaterial bits. But, she stresses, we’ll first need to overcome our complacency and start taking the long-term protection of valuable data seriously.
When We Are No More is concerned with a specific aspect of this condition: How can we ensure that the digital information we’re amassing today will serve as a 'coherent and continuous' model of our world tomorrow? That’s a complicated question that won’t be suitably unpacked in the space of this review. But this bold and erudite author needs fewer than 200 pages to sketch out an answer that draws heavily on the wisdom of our information-obsessed ancestors ... what may be most refreshing about When We Are No More is that it doesn’t see doom in all this. Rumsey isn’t asking any of us to step away from our machines or our digital lives. Instead, she’s asking us to seize this opportunity. The time is now, Rumsey argues, to ensure that those who come after us will be able to make sense of the memories we’re building today.
[Rumsey's] book is a thoughtful, often elegant meditation on memory ... Only late in the book does Ms. Rumsey turn toward the future of memory, and these passages strike me as the most interesting, but also the most frustrating: Ms. Rumsey clearly identifies the threats that most endanger our faculty of memory—chief among them distraction and technology-induced amnesia—but says she believes we will successfully address those threats. She doesn’t explain why she is confident.