When I was 25 my best friend died suddenly. I desperately wanted to write a eulogy but was not able. It is a great regret of mine that I did not, but my brain erased him. I just couldn’t recall events perfectly enough to make them clear to a church full of shocked mourners. I wanted to bring him back exactly and I could not.
Yesterday I clicked one of those texty ads on the sidebar of some blog. The ad said something about improving your memory. It had a tiny picture of a woman looking off into the distance with her hands touching her temples. She was trying to remember something. It led me to a site called Lumosity. I took a couple of their memory tests. They had a little graph at the bottom showing a simple uptrend. The uptrend indicated improvement in my memory if I kept working at their tests.
I worry about my memory. Did you see this article from a couple of weeks ago? “Internet Use Affects Memory, Study Finds.” Here’s a snippet:
The subjects were significantly more likely to remember information if they thought they would not be able to find it later. “Participants did not make the effort to remember when they thought they could later look up the trivia statement they had read,” the authors write.
A second experiment was aimed at determining whether computer accessibility affects precisely what we remember. “If asked the question whether there are any countries with only one color in their flag, for example,” the researchers wrote, “do we think about flags — or immediately think to go online to find out?”
In this case, participants were asked to remember both the trivia statement itself and which of five computer folders it was saved in. The researchers were surprised to find that people seemed better able to recall the folder.
It makes sense. But the implications are frightful.
If we start to rely on Google, if we outsource our ability to remember we are also at the mercy of Google, or any government which wants certain events recorded in a specific way. What happens to history if it’s alterable and only recorded digitally? You may like your Kindle or Nook, but there is no permanence to e-books. They can be rewritten.
In the past, cultures were built around a shared oral history. If they forgot, they lost a special component that binded people together. They were forced to remember. What happens if your culture starts forcing you to forget? What if it tells you to “Never Forget” some things to the detriment of other far more important things that you should remember instead?
Where’s Ray Bradbury when you need him?
Last May I stopped trading for six months. When I went out of my office and spent entire days with people I felt like I was somewhat impaired. I’m so used to being with my computer I hadn’t realized how much it was affecting my mental habits and routine. What happens to your brain when you just sit and stare at numbers flashing hundreds of times a minute? It burns.
I’ve been doing research for my series of posts about daytrading in the early days. I found an old trading journal from 2005, before I started my old blog (in 2007). I was amazed that it looked exactly like my trading journal from this week. Amazed because I thought I was doing something different these past couple of years. I’ve been doing the same thing. I simply forgot what it was I did. It was eerie.
I’m taking steps to improve my memory. I meditate daily. Even though a lot of the time I’m sitting there and my brain jumps all over the place at least I see that happening. I understand what I’m up against. It needs to rest. I need to remember that.
I’m driving my car. I look in the rearview mirror. My six year old daughter is looking over at my 4 month old daughter. They are silently smiling at each other. We’re all healthy. We’re driving to the beach for the sunset and everyone is happy. I want that memory. I want to remember typing and being interrupted each morning by my six year old’s voice calling from her darkened bedroom, “Is it nighttime or morningtime?”
If I can’t have these memories forever, I’m not sure what use my brain has anymore.
I’ll write them down here; hope the cloud never crashes.
Meanwhile, I just reviewed my Twitter stream. It’s awesome. Follow me.