Our work revolves around helping you remember the important things of life. So naturally when Nicholas Carr raised the question ("Is Google Making Us Stupid?") in his July article in The Atlantic Monthly, I paid attention. The gist of the challenge was this: with media messaging overload, the tools available via technology and information literally at our fingertips, is this perfect storm doing something to our brains, our memory and our ability to reflect and concentrate?
Carr makes the case that as we use the web ”we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of those technologies.” He notes that because of technology, not only have our reading patterns changed, so has the way our brains appear to process information. We take info faster, don't read deeply, flit from link to link receiving parts of sources; never whole pictures. We're inundated with more messaging than ever, but we retain less. In short, we forage, we don't feast.
Neuroscience research shows that our brain's neurons are actually more plastic, for more years, than scientists used to think. It's feasible that the all-encompassing influence of the computer as our library, clock, travel guide, booking agent, diary, typewriter, scheduler, telephone, calculator and dozens of other things, is indeed doing things to our brains at the biological level.
Whether this is good or bad depends upon whom you ask.
On the one hand, we get more information, from nearly anywhere, faster than ever. This is a good thing. But we're not doing as much thinking and remembering. Maryanne Wolfe a developmental psychologist at Tufts University says “We are not only what we read, we are how we read... becoming mere decoders of information.”
As Carr points out, there isn't time for “the fuzziness of contemplation.” He makes the case that reading by jumping from link to link, “propels you forward,” but doesn't allow for deep memory retention. It uses the short-term, prefrontal lobes of our brains. To become long term, memory needs to be reprocessed in the hippocampus.
Adroit repetition can help move things you want to remember into your long-term memory; Mom's new cell phone number; the words of a poem, the steps for your company vision. If you haven't tried out the reQall Memory Jogger function, we hope you do. You may not have time for “fuzziness of contemplation,” but using technology to build a better memory? Smart!
N. Rao Machiraju