Memory Machines

Just a quick post today as the writing Muse has a hold of me something fierce.

More and more, I’m noticing my dependency on technology in a very key area: memory.

A friend of mine is in the hospital, and she gave me the phone number to her room, which I promptly put into my cellphone. However, for some reason, I couldn’t commit it to memory, nor did I feel particularly inclined to. I realized that I didn’t know any of my friends’ or family members’ phone numbers. I had them all stored away in my cellphone with little fear of losing them. And if I did, I could just reach out to them on Facebook and get their numbers. If that failed, then email would work just fine.

But years ago, before the advent of the Internet, I would memorize numbers because I had to. Sure, I had a little black book too, but at any given time, I could recite a list of numbers off the top of my head, at least the ones belonging to my closest friends and family. Since it’s no longer necessary to do so now, I feel like I’ve lost something.

It’s not just phone numbers, either. It’s all kinds of facts that I don’t feel an urgency to remember. Why? Because a casual search on Google or Wikipedia will give me the info I need. So that little transition from short term memory to long term doesn’t happen as much. Who needs to remember a bunch of facts these days anyway? Or Shakespeare quotations, which my literature professors could recite in a heartbeat?

It seems that machines are taking over not only labor but memory storage and management. I feel a Terminator 2, Skynet becoming aware scenario coming on. Maybe one day we’ll free up so much of our brain that we won’t have to remember a thing ourselves, and we can devote that brain power to something else.


What do you guys think?



13 comments on “Memory Machines

    • It’s so bad for me that I can’t even recite my own. My excuse is always “I don’t ever call myself.” Plus, I can fish the number out of my phone if I need to.

      Yet, like you, I only remember my mother’s phone number. Guess we’re momma’s boys, eh? 😛

  1. I’ve mentioned that a number of times. I got a cell phone late. Only a couple years ago. I went from knowing an entire long list of numbers to knowing none and barely my own. I’ve been known to look up my own number in my phone. How the memory has failed.

    • It’s funny you mention looking up your own number; I just commented on that too. I used to be able to spit out my number on the spot to anyone who asked. Now? Not so much.

      I wonder what affect this will have on human beings in the future. Since we won’t need to retain and recall information as immediately as we once did, how will it affect our lives? Sounds like a juicy subject for a story . . .

  2. And I subscribe to a bunch of bloggers so that I don’t have to remember to check their blogs manually 😛

    Sometimes I wonder about this, I forget phone numbers and I forget jobs (“So what do you do for a living again?”). Next step is that we forget names too? 😛

    • haha! That would be something else. Just wave your cellphone in front of someone, and it will automatically tell you their name.

      Or maybe glasses that show you information about the person you’re looking at? That’d be like Big Brother. 😛

  3. Yes it is true, on another side, ask a few peoples to do simple arithmitics it their head…I work in a technical job, and many have a hard time to do so…

    • That’s so true! I’ve seen it happen many times. Calculators are so readily available, especially as an app on your phone, that some people may have lost the need to do simple math in their heads. Just pull out your phone and do it there.

  4. …which is why you may want to read the book that just came out: The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing To Our Brains.

    For the record, I haven’t read it myself but I understand the author goes through a historical review of various technologies (the printing press, etc.) up until contemporary times and discusses its impact on us as human beings.

  5. I think you are absolutely right. Now, we don’t even need a pen and paper anymore (when people see me writing on paper they are in awe). “Is that a pen?” I hear.
    “Wow, you still use one of those?”

  6. I would love to free up enough brain space that I can be a walking, lobotomized free-spirit. Like in I Heart Huckabees where they bang their heads to stop thinking. I want that. Gimme. Gimme Terminator.

    And I have a hard time believing that you had a little black book. Was this when you were hitting the club scene and greasing your hair?

    I don’t remember shit. I have to write everything down. I used to forget where I put my lists until I start putting them in my phone. So I have codes, numbers, and directions in my phone that I don’t even know what for.

    The beau and his ma are like walking encyclopedias. They know the dates of everything. I don’t understand this. The only good thing about that is that they can make someone feel really dumb really quickly. Which is awesome.

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