Are our memories suffering from our reliance on gadgets?

So I’m in this month’s edition of Wired, just a short quote. Since it’s here and it’s now I’ve reproduced the full quote I sent them below:

> I’m looking for a response to this question: “Are tools like Google and PDAs
> ruining our ability to remember things?”

So we have this amazing brain which constantly scans our environment and seeks out short-cuts. New bits of tech, like google or mobile phones, stop being strange very quickly (even though, truely, they’re just incredible. Unthinkable just a few years ago). They get absorbed, become artifical information-processing prosthetics. Are they making us forget things? Sure, we’re forgetting the things they allow us not to have to remember. But when we use something, or design something, we get a choice about what it asked us to remember. My mobile phone means the only numbers i remember are the ones i deliberately haven’t put in their so i’m forced to learn them. Not knowing any phone numbers is fine – as long as i don’t lose my phone. Then it becomes a bit of a problem.

But phone numbers are hard to learn anyway – a hang-up from an old technology. The situation is completely reversed for getting in touch with people through the web. Knowing the URL or email isn’t so useful – it might change. But with Google, knowing a person’s name (exactly the piece of information you store in your phone to allow you to forget their number) means you can find their details on-line in seconds. The technology lets us forget an implementational detail, and allows us to concentrate on remembering a versatile, tech-enabled, solution.

2 Comments

  1. Posted June 2, 2005 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    How’s Your Memory?

    How’s Your Memory?

  2. Posted October 2, 2007 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    There has been some evidence that video games can help with memory retention. The Mayo Clinic comments:
    Recent studies confirm older people can improve their memory and problem-solving skills with practice
    This explains the rise in brain related memory games and thier possible impact on the greying generation.


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