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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mental Hacker

In humans, the short-term storage of information—as when you enter an acquaintance’s Email 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 your 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 become the major influence in how human beings think, behave and learn.

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. Scientific research into topics like human creativity (which computers don’t seem to have mastered yet) and cognitive psychology will become increasingly important, along with other disciplines that deal with how to manipulate information into something usefull.

3 comments:

R101 said...

Sin embargo es interesante considerar que ciertos tipos de acciones creativas probablemente no puedan ser realizados sin acceso a información que está fuera del sistema. Uno podría decir ¿Cuál es el drama? Por ejemplo: no tengo para qué memorizar las "bastas" de los vestidos estilo Nuevo Imperio en Francia, porque puedo ir fácilmente al sitio de Internet en el cual alguien ya colgó muchas imágenes de grabados y dioseños sobre el punto. Tal asumpción olvida que -al menos si de creatividad se trata- mucho de lo que ocurre, valga la redundancia, ocurre porque nuestras mentes -de una manera nada clara hasta ahora- parecen tener un sistema de procesamiento paralelo...inconciente: producimos cosas como "soluciones" o "enfoques" luego de concentrarnos mucho en ellas y, de alguna forma, la búsqueda de patrones continúa operando cuando nuestra atención conciente está en otro ámbito. Si la información para realizar esto no está disponible, habrá soluciones, pero probalmente sean más "pobres".

Mariana Soffer said...

Muy cierto lo que decis, nunca hay que olvidar que la technologia es una simple herramienta. El tema del funcionamiento del cerebro es eterno, y prometo expanderme si logro entender algo. Acuerdo con lo que decis de como funciona por ejemplo la solucion de un problema aunque el foco de consciencia no se halle ahi

Віктор Михайлов said...

"a direct link between our minds and databases need not be science fiction." I wanna make it. But It is huge amount of information. %\