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Should You Replace Technology with Memorization?


Steven DeMaio says he doesn't need a calendar or to-do list. He's thrown away his address book as well. Instead, he has trained his memory to afford instant recall of important numbers, email addresses, names and dates.

"I don't use the contacts feature on my cell phone, or the calendar on Gmail, or the personal organizer on any handheld device," DeMaio, a teacher, writes on his blog. "And, no, I don't rely instead on an old-style paper planner or address book. Not even a desk blotter, retro as that would be. I memorize things, plain and simple -- as if Gutenberg never lived, as if the Egyptians never started using papyrus."
What drives this motivation to memorize? Technology is a crutch that turns his mind to mush, he says. Also, we as a species have a moral imperative to use the Big Tool in our craniums that separates us from other species.
"There's something intoxicating about a room full of flesh-and-blood creatures who can call up -- without an electronic aid -- any of thousands of details, no matter how mundane, at a second's notice in order to organize and plan their activities. Indeed, the more mundane the details are, the more delightfully freakish and exhilarating it is to recall them."
I'll agree it's freakish, all right. Sorry, Steven, but I believe technology is a great invention to free up our minds for a higher purpose. The technology "crutch", if used consistently, allows you not to worry about upcoming dates and tasks. They come to you, electronically, when it is is time to deal with them. And that's a wonderful thing.

Not that exercising memory is a bad thing, quite the contrary. I'm sure "use it or lose it" applies to gray matter as much as it does to muscles. I just don't want to cram my limited BrainRAM with stuff like my kid's doctor's appointment next January 23 at 2:30.

But I suspect my "can't live without technology" view is just as polarizing as Steven's "technology is bad for the brain" opinion. Read DeMaio's engaging Harvard Business Publishing post, The Supreme Killer App: Your Memory, then come back here and tell us if you believe we are under-using our brains or over-using our thumbs.

(Apple Newton image by oskay, CC 2.0)

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