I will sometimes tell a friend about an article I'm working on and the person will say, "Put that on your blog!" So here at the request of Robert is the following.
Data mining in my own brain
“Experts and stakeholders say the Internet will enhance our intelligence – not make us stupid.” That’s the introduction to a recently reported study by the Pew Research Center. I’m not so sure I agree. When each new piece of technology comes out, I wonder about its impact on us as a culture and on us individually. The cell phone has made the good manners of showing up when and where you say you will almost unnecessary. “Call me when you get there.” Or “ I’ll call you when I get there.” Ask someone about a phone number and they will look in their phone. Many people can no longer hold dozens of regularly used numbers in their memory. We often see a group of teens walking along together, but all talking to someone else on their phones (maybe having lost the capacity to interact with each other). And if you are wondering who played the part of the little girl in some obscure 1940’s movie, it takes only a moment on the computer or on your Internet capable phone.
I must admit, I do like that possibility almost more than all the others. I am haunted when I am not able to remember something. Such was the case a few weeks ago. On our way to an event my husband and I passed a car driven by a former neighbor, “Oh there’s....“ And I could not remember her name. And my husband could not remember her name. If I had been near my computer or had a fancy phone I could have found it. I know where she works and it would be there on the website.
So without those technical supports I had only my brain in which to dig for this information. I knew the woman well enough and liked her very much, so I was especially miffed that the name was not on the tip of my tongue or the tip of my brain. I started with the alphabet. No luck. Then I tried her husband’s name and her daughter’s name. No luck. Then I imagined greeting her on the street. “ Well hello….” No luck. I started over again with the alphabet and several other strategies.
It took the entire 30-minute trip before I found it. “Patti! “I shouted to my husband with a sense of real triumph. I am a junkyard dog when I can’t remember things; so having stuck with it and found the missing “data” I felt a mixture of triumph, pride and relief. As a psychologist I was fascinated by the strategies I had used as I navigated through all the entry points of my own memory bank, association, imagery, checklists.
If we believe that exercising certain capacities is the best way to maintain them, then the current state reminds me of the phrase, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
I do appreciate most aspects of technology, but wonder if some parts of it are resulting in lazy brains. We are missing out on the process of data mining in our own brains, the strengthening of our synaptic pathways and the pride in the results. The only thing we have to remember now it seems is where we left our computer.
Coincidentally, the next day, after not seeing the woman in ages, my husband met her at an event and was able to say, without hesitation, “Well hello, Patti.”