Is Technology Killing Your Memory?
This video comes from BrainCraft, a new neuroscience and psychology-themed YouTube channel (follow BrainCraft on Tumblr here). Really looking forward to more! It got me thinking …
Where did I leave my keys? What’s Avogadro’s number? That song I was listening to yesterday, what’s the name of the band again?
We encounter questions like these every day, some simple, some complex. Some are based on experiences, some on detailed information. Unfortunately, the chemical and biological information storage and recall method that we call “memory” is not at all like the digital storage that Google and modern digital entities use to catalog the world’s knowledge and data.
No, our memories are not perfect imprints of a point in time, as nice as that would be. And we do not recall neural information using any sort of logical catalogue, which would be so helpful. It’s just neural networks, firing and refiring, never exactly the same way twice. Memory is more like a walk through a familiar wood, along a well-traveled footpath that is constantly worn and reworn, the forest floor creeping in upon it after we pass and requiring that we stroll along it from time to time lest we lose it altogether.
The imperfection of memory is one of the very reasons we invented digital computing devices. As their capabilities have grown, we have begun to use them to buttress the very cathedral of our mind, making them a truly integral part of our cognitive process. We are, should we choose to be, a hybrid mind, silicon and cellular.
So is Google a crutch that is weakening our brain? Or a new, powerful tool that expands the possibilities for our intellectual evolution? Or something in between?