November 1, 2007

Memory 2.0

Filed under: Internet — ubikcan @ 12:33 pm

One of the reasons for doing this blog was that it would help me to remember stuff. I’m pretty bad at remembering and I thought if I noted things down here (as well as maybe in a portable wiki file I tried out) I’d be able to find stuff again.

So say you find something interesting you can comment on it. Then ideally you just search for it and it comes up. I’ve done this tons of times and re-found stuff I wanted to use elsewhere or just see again. It can work, but there’s a problem: you have to remember what it is you’re looking for. At some point you have to choose some search terms that are specific enough but not broad (map would be too broad). And I have to have used the words and spelled them correctly in the original piece (countless times I’ve looked for a piece I know is there but can’t find!).

This month’s National Geographic delves into memory with some fascinating stories. In an age where the Internet seems to remember everything (case in point: Wikipedia where you can’t delete anything, only change or add to it, or Google cache) memory loss might seem paradoxically attractive. If you remember everything (and the article presents the case of “AJ” who has an almost perfect memory going back to childhood) then you remember what someone said to you in the past compared to what they’re saying now. AJ calls her memory not a gift but a burden.

On the other hand I’m very grateful for the Internet’s ability to store and retrieve things. When I first started using Google Mail I was skeptical because you don’t put your mail into folders: Google argued that it wasn’t necessary as you can just search for your mail even if it’s all just thrown together. And I realized they were right (mostly).

Maybe I have Memory 2.0. I use the Internet to help me remember, but my own memory is relatively poor (evolutionary atrophied?). Without the tools (even if they’re not perfect) I’d be hosed. Even with them it’s not perfect (if I’m talking to someone about a shared experience the Internet isn’t really going to help). Maybe I should develop some mnemonics?

Now let’s see where they are using Google…


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