Sunday, October 26, 2014

How Remembering is Changing

            Our memory has evolved over the centuries, and we are finding that us as individuals remember less, but our technology is remembering more. According to the article “Failing to Forget the Drunken Pirate”, the capabilities of the Internet have allowed us to store enormous amounts of data and information on how we go about our lives. What we search on the Internet, what we buy, where we’ve been, and what we post are all stored and can be accessed in the future. Not to mention all of the knowledge available to us through the Internet. But does all this access to information affect how we remember things ourselves? A study published in the Yale Scientific Magazine sought to answer this question by testing how well people remembered trivia questions when they were told they’d have access to the answers later, versus not having the answers. Not surprisingly, those who thought the answers would not be available later remembered the answers better. Knowing that we have access to the Internet and all of the answers held there, we do not feel the need to commit things to memory, like people of the past had to do. The article also brought up the case of students not paying as much attention in class, or taking good notes if they know the PowerPoint will be posted online to access later.
            Another experiment was done where the subjects paid more attention to computer related words after being asked a trivia question, which showed our brains think about computers when there is a question we do not know how to answer.  Even more evidence showing are brains are geared more towards computers and the internet is when subjects were asked to remember which folder the answers to trivia facts were saved in, they better remembered the folder versus the answers to the facts. Dr. Sparrow, who conducted these experiments, believes the results show that our memory patterns have changed, but is this change a good thing? Does “externally storing memory” on computers and other devices affect the way we reason and make decisions, if we had retained that information instead? We know that too little memory can be a bad thing, but what about too much memory? According to the “Drunken Pirate”, there is definitely a negative side to having too much memory. A case was published about a woman in California who has the ability to remember everything since she was 11. But because of this ability, it is extremely difficult for her to make decisions, and she becomes caught up in her memories. So now we come to the question of what is memory’s happy medium? Perhaps we need to stop relying on the Internet so much for answers, especially since we are storing so much more on something that is not physical, like books. Could you imagine what would happen if our technology, and the Internet no longer worked? How much precious information would we lose?

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