Friday, October 26, 2007

Our Memory

Being a national columnist means never having to give attribution to others for their ideas. For example, here's David Brooks talking about the outsourcing of his memory to gadgets:

Until that moment, I had thought that the magic of the information age was that it allowed us to know more, but then I realized the magic of the information age is that it allows us to know less. It provides us with external cognitive servants — silicon memory systems, collaborative online filters, consumer preference algorithms and networked knowledge. We can burden these servants and liberate ourselves.

That sounded familiar. In fact, I had just read something similar yesterday in the National Geographic:

But over the past millennium, many of us have undergone a profound shift. We've gradually replaced our internal memory with what psychologists refer to as external memory, a vast superstructure of technological crutches that we've invented so that we don't have to store information in our brains. We've gone, you might say, from remembering everything to remembering awfully little. We have photographs to record our experiences, calendars to keep track of our schedules, books (and now the Internet) to store our collective knowledge, and Post-it notes for our scribbles. What have the implications of this outsourcing of memory been for ourselves and for our society? Has something been lost?

Maybe one of Brooks' silicon servants let him down and forgot to remind him that he already read this article. Anyway the National Geographic article is really good; check it out.

1 comment:

Nat-Wu said...

Well, I do believe that's conflating all kinds of knowledge. I mean, there is memory of past events and knowledge of math, which are both knowledge yet of different types.

What are the implications of outsourcing our memory? Well for one, a vast increase in its capacity. For example, people of the last 30 years each "know" more music than anyone who came before because of our data storage techniques.

Even if our memory is not as sharp as those legendary pages and scribes of history who could hear a message from their master once, remember it for days, and recite it perfectly at will, we have not lost the capacity for that kind of memory. I think most of us are simply too lazy to develop it.

I can't really remember the point I was going to make though.