I am so excited for Reading For Robin’s first ever guest post! And not just because it means I can watch an extra few minutes of How I Met Your Mother. Here Carley tells us about attending Joshua Foer’s talk at Google’s New York office.
Before I officially begin my guest post on Reading for Robin (affectionately referred to as RFR in my circles), I’d like to say what an honor it is to be posting. I am RFR’s #1 fan so this is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and an honor. So thank you, Sam!
The purpose of this post is to tell you about a talk I attended with Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein, which Sam recently listened to and wrote about here and here. Moonwalking with Einstein is about memory, and so the discussion that Foer gave centered around just that. And since I work in the technology world, the conversation turned to how the internet, smartphones and computers have changed the way that we (humans) use our memories. Has the internet (and the ease with which we can access bounds of information) made us dumber or just lazier?
During my hour with Joshua Foer, I was convinced of the latter. Foer argues that because we know that we can just “Google” something, we are not compelled to memorize solitary facts. We use our memory’s capacity for other, more complex things. Foer also argues that our memory is like a lens, always changing and interacting with the environment. Knowledge is not the same thing as wisdom, and technology is only making shallow knowledge more accessible, which enables us to tackle more complex problems. If we don’t use our memory for shallow facts, we could ideally use the extra memory capacity to solve more complex problems. Whether we choose to do that is a different story entirely.
By the end of the hour, what we really concluded was that the world is changing, and so is the way that humans process information. Now that we have access to all of the world’s information through the click of a button, will we stop memorizing shallow facts (For example, half of high school students don’t know who we fought in WWII!?!) so that we have more time and memory capacity to absorb complex ideas and thoughts that we are truly passionate about? What scares me is this: if we don’t take the time to learn facts, how are we supposed to know what we should care about? In the WWII example, if you don’t know who we fought (or why), how are we supposed to know that we should care about it?
I haven’t had a chance yet to read Moonwalking with Einstein, but now that I own a copy, I am looking forward to reading it, and I hope to have more questions and opinions about such an interesting topic. Maybe when I finish the book, I’ll be back as a guest blogger to tell you what I learned!