Big Thought: The human mind is capable of astounding feats of memory when using specific memory tools. And examining memory is valuable because it leads us to questions of intelligence, identity, education, and personal development.
- Having a perfect memory and no memory are both pathological. If you can’t forget information, it’s impossible to focus because you can’t determine what information is worth focusing on and which isn’t relevant. If you have no memory, you can’t develop a personality beyond the present moment. ” Call it a soul, or a self, or an emergent byproduct of a neural network, but whatever you want it, that element of continuity is entirely dependent on our memory.” (86)
- There are a lot of tools that memory experts use to remember large gobs of information, like the memory palace and the Major System. They usually depend on activating the parts of our brain that remember visual cues by turning information into pictures. It makes me think that if I can turn information I want to remember into sensory data, it will be easier to remember.
- “It goes without saying that intelligence is much, much more than mere memory…, but memory and intelligence do seem to go hand in hand, like a muscular frame and an athletic disposition. There’s a feedback loop between the two. The more tightly any new information can me embedded in the information that we already know, the more likely it is to be remembered…The more we remember, the better we are at processing the world. And the better we are at processing the world, then we can remember it.” (208).
- Joshua worked with performance experts when improving his memory. He was told that when top performers continually improve their skills, there were a number of specific paths that they followed (171):
- Focusing on their technique (using deliberate practice to stay in the cognitive phase of learning instead of the autonomous phase).
- Staying goal-oriented.
- Getting constant and immediate feedback on their performance.
- There’s a strong link between memory and creativity: “Where do new ideas come from if not some alchemical blending of old ideas? In order to invent, one first needed a proper inventory, a bank of existing ideas to draw on. Not just an inventory, but an indexed inventory. One needed a way of finding the right piece of information at just the right time.” (203) It reminds me of Josh Waitzkin’s idea of learning numbers to forget numbers in The Art of Learning, or of the work a jazz musician puts in to develop the strong technical knowledge needed for true improvisation. So to develop creativity, work on learning (and remembering) as many building blocks as possible.