Memory in the Information Age

What was the last thing you’ve forgotten? An elusive fact, gone with barely a trace? I know this fact, you tell yourself, I know it! But after futilely taxing your brain, you end up searching online. That’s when you find your bit of knowledge.

In the past years we have come to rely on the internet more and more, not for gaining new information, but for remembering. Is this a good thing? Some people don’t think so; they argue that such use makes us overly dependent on an external tool. But even before the internet, people were relying on their friends and family to retain information for them. Such traits are exhibited especially well in elderly couples: studies have shown that when they are separated, these couples can remember far less than when they are allowed to trigger each other’s memories.

Humans are tool users. We know how to find information, and we know just how much work we have to do to retrieve it. But there’s one more thing a tool user must remember: it’s always good to have a backup.

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