The art of remembrance

 

There is nothing quite like the human brain.  I’ve mentioned it in previous posts and I’ll mention it again: no technology (I don’t care how good it is) could ever replace the capacity of intellect we are born with.  Each and every second of our lives, neurons are firing.  Our brains record images, sounds, smells and feelings and then process the information in a way that makes it mean something.  So when we try to replace human functions with new technology, there’s no way to tell the full effects of it…yet.

That’s what fascinated me about Tu’s article in The Atlantic.  We are essentially relying on technology to hold our information instead of entrusting it all to our brains.  When we do this, two things can happen: we either look back on ordinary events captured by technology with pleasure or we don’t have detailed memories of these events at all.  Tu addresses this point in the article and draws on the knowledge of psychology professor Linda Henkel.

 

“Based on this experiment, Henkel argues that when we photograph something, we end up relying on the camera as an external memory source.  ‘With cameras, what we seem to be doing is outsourcing our memories–we expect that the camera’s got it. The camera’s got the picture,’ she says.  The problem is, we end up brushing aside the whole moment as well.”

 

But what does this information mean for us?  It’s a little too much to ask technology users to monitor their usage in the name of the human brain.  We want life to move faster, be clearer and be available at our convenience, while still maintaining its meaning.  It’s a tall order to be sure. 

Here’s what I suggest: let’s create technology that complements what our brains can already do, instead of trying to replace it.  We need implanted technology that allows us to experience a moment but also capture it at the same time.  Want to take a picture? Cue the technology to take a photo based on what your eyes are already seeing.  Instead of having to hold up a camera and take the time to get the right shot, you could literally blink and have a photo.  Admittedly, I’m no engineer.  I don’t know what this idea would entail, maybe a headpiece similar to the Google Glass model.  But what I do know is that something like implanted technology can act as a back-up to our brains, and both methods of recording memories would be able to flourish.

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