This fascinating article at Scientific American, about human and animal consciousness, contains the following passage:
"In humans, the short-term storage of symbolic information—as when you enter an acquaintance’s phone number into your iPhone’s memory—is associated with conscious processing."
A few years ago, when I was first learning about memory, the example probably would have gone more like "your short term memory holds small amounts of information, like a phone number, while you rehearse it in your head until you have it memorized."
The main difference between the examples is that the iPhone has replaced our own biological memory storage as the final resting place of long term memories. I think this points toward a more general trend, in which technology is taking over many of the functions that our brains carried out before. Why memorize a phone number when you can, at any time, just retrieve it on a screen with a few swipes of your finger? Why commit the times table to memory when a calculator is always close at hand?
Storing memories outside of our brains is nothing new. Scrawling something on paper is much the same. However, the ease with which we can store and retrieve these external memory banks is improving at an exponential rate. Today, a lot of the human race's collective store of knowledge can be searched in fractions of a second with a few keystrokes in a search engine. Maybe tomorrow, our fingers won't even be an intermediary step; a direct link between our minds and databases need not be science fiction. Google may not just be the future of computers, but the future of the human race.
As we continue to improve our access to information outside of our heads, I think there will be less emphasis on teaching people raw information, and more emphasis on teaching what to do with information. [self plug] Scientific research into topics like human creativity (which computers don't seem to have mastered yet) and cognitive psychology will become increasingly important [/self plug], as will disciplines like philosophy and math, which deal purely with how to manipulate information into something useful. We should probably also keep Keanu Reeves around to make sure we haven't slipped into The Matrix without realizing it.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- No, Earth's Magnetic Field Is Not About To Flip
- Supersymmetry Is About To Be Discovered, Kane Says
- 140 dead in Paris. Distance from South Korea to New York shrinks by 5,000 miles.
- "Imaginary Bullshit Planet" Nibiru - Lens Flares, Sun Mirages, Hoaxes & Just Plain Silly
- Study Shows Men Attracted to Transgender Women are NOT Gay. DUH!
- New Open-access Data On Paleofloods
- Anomaly! - A Different Particle Physics Book
- "For all folks who regularly read this column:I have just come across this:Physicists Are Desperate..."
- "When it really comes down to it Robert, we either make it as a civilization or don't. We either..."
- "Erinaceus Europaeus,I'm am conflicted about thoughts such as: while this extreme social event can't..."
- "Thank you for giving us a clearer understanding on where we stand with a magnetic field flip.Alex..."
- "Golbeki Temple in turkey.... we're all outta africa with some variations, eh?..."
- Cookin’ Your Bird, The Science Way
- Should the new hep C drugs be used sooner?
- Bilingual patients have better cognitive function post-stroke
- Caveat Comestor: New Yorker Cites ACSH On Cranberry Scare Of ’59
- Does Holiday Feasting Affect Obesity Rates?
- Apple Pie, Mashed Potatoes and Natural Formaldehyde
- Breast MRI after mammography may identify additional aggressive cancers
- Breast cancer clinic attributes increased uptake of double mastectomies to Angelina Jolie effect
- Exploring the physics of a chocolate fountain
- Researchers urge caution in prescribing commonly used drug to treat ADHD
- Stretch the new flex for programmable rubber keyboard