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Technology and Our Memory: Can We Find a Balance?

Article first published as Technology and Our Memory: Can We Find a Balance? on Technorati.

As I sat down to write my first article of 2012, I still had not decided on a subject. As I pondered, I quickly grabbed my iPhone. It had been about a week since I read any sort of news about technology, and I had completely blanked on what to write about. In one week, I had forgotten what the current news was, in the occupation I chose as my career. Sure, I remembered the major stories like SOPA, but every topic that didn’t have the capability to ‘destroy the Internet,’ had slipped my mind in a week. And I now know why.

I, and the majority of those reading this, rely on technology devices so much, that it has become essentially apart of our brains. Things that we used to have to remember — phone numbers, addresses, birthdays, even some names — we can’t recall anymore, at lease not without some assistance. These memories are now stored in our “external brains,” better known as our smartphones.

Back in 2007, Ben Quinn of The Telegraph wrote an article on a study that stated that mobile devices were “dumbing down brain power.” The study, conducted in the UK, states that,

“A quarter of all Britons do not know their own landline number, while as little as a third can recall more than three birthdays of their immediate family.”

That article was written in July of 2007, months before the original iPhone was released in the UK, and over a year before an Android device was even available. To say that the study is outdated is an understatement, but the premise is as relevant as ever. We rely so much on these devices — devices that have enhanced our lives in a multitude of ways — that if they were taken away, or decommissioned abruptly, we would be in serious trouble.

I’m not making an argument that technology is bad, or that it is having a negative effect on our society, far from it — I use a myriad of devices everyday, it’s how I make my living. But we are living through 4-inch screens. We document so much of our lives, from vacations, to live events (check any YouTube clip of a concert for the number of phones, and even iPads recording — you will be surprised), even memorializing family gatherings on Instagram, that we can sometimes forget to live in the moment.

Maybe that study is right, and technology is dumbing down our brains. But does it have more to do with the technology, or us as people? Are we so attached to these devices, that when we don’t have them, we can’t function? Or is it just a commodity that we have utilized to its fullest extent?

There is one thing I’m sure of — we need to have a balance between our extended brains, and our natural ones. We should be able to remember more than five phone numbers, we should be able to recall more than three of our family member’s birthdays, without looking at our phones, or tablets, or computers, or mutant 5-inch Android devices (really Samsung?).

We built this technology-filled world with our natural brains. Let’s make sure we can remember how we did it, without having to check our devices.

By the way, the topics that I blanked on were in my iPhone. Go figure.


One thought on “Technology and Our Memory: Can We Find a Balance?

  1. Great post. Should be an interesting few years. I think for your dripicteon to come true, one of the big three Android phone manufacturers will need to take a big lead over the other two. As it stands now, they’re competing against each other as much as Apple. The iPhone coming to Verizon will give it a big boost in the coming years as well, as it basically neutralizes one of Android’s biggest strengths. Verizon customers renewing their contracts now have the option of getting an iPhone alongside a myriad of Android devices, and it’ll be interesting to see what they choose.

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