Technology and memory: the pros and cons
Everywhere you look, someone has a piece of technology in their hand, on their lap or even mounted around their head.
The genie is out of the bottle and is never going back in; technological advancement and its over-riding influence upon our everyday lives is here to stay. But has this obsession with gadgetry resulted in us no longer relying on memory?
When it comes to an activity such as reading maps, an automated voice can tell us where we’re going; and if you want to recall someone’s phone number or birthday, that data is just a click away on any number of personal devices.
Is all this quite simply bad or does it mean those faculties which are no longer being used might be accommodating other kinds of useful information?
Ever been on holiday and visited a tourist spot where you’ve taken a limitless number of photos in order to ‘remember’ the occasion.
Your reliance on a camera means that the brain won’t have digested the information as it once would have. But then again, you’ve taken those photos so you can access them later. Except, will you?
Given how disorganised most humans can be with perfectly manageable amounts of information, a database containing thousands of images might well linger on your device or desktop waiting indefinitely to be properly filed (and then easily accessed).
Meanwhile, our true memory of that holiday (or concert or speech or fireworks display etc) might be vaguely recalled through our lens-shaped mind’s eye.
There’s a theory kicking about that the more we write down on paper, the more we are likely to remember small and big details.
Allowing our eyes to scroll through screened type on tablets, phones or e-books results in our brains functioning in a more digitised, scattered and fragmented way inevitably leading to information being lost in our heads. But perhaps it’s the way that we use the information we read now that is important as opposed to how we remember facts and details.
While no one would ever dream of using their iPhone to win a pub quiz (would they?), the various methods of receiving and collating information means that presenting data is more important than simply remembering it.
Digital technology means that a variety of audio and visual ideas are available to us and our ability to interact with it and pick out the main bits we need is more valuable to having total recall.
But what happens when your smartphone or PC fails to work at the moment you need them the most? The information you require might no longer be a click or two away and you haven’t built up the requisite depth of knowledge to dig out a crucial fact.
While our ability to access swathes of information and data is more enhanced than ever before, there seems little doubt that the multi-distractions of our uber-technological modern culture have re-configured our brains. All the facts and advice we could ever need are at our fingertips, but our ability to remember (and communicate) any of it is less certain.
Do you think your use of technology might be affecting your memory in a negative way?
Rachel - Silversurfers Assistant Editor
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