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Nimis's avatar

Does the prevalence of digital media (videos, photos, etc.) improve our natural memory or create an artificial memory?

Asked by Nimis (13056 points ) June 4th, 2011 from iPhone

Parents nowadays seem to document every step of their children growing up. They are constantly bombarded with images of their personal history. From an early age, they’ve come to recognize their own image.

A four-year-old who grew up with this digital media instantly recognized an image of herself as a infant. Yet a five-year-old who grew up with less techie parents did not.

Are we merely using it to exercise our natural ability to remember? Or are we creating an artificial memory? Is there a difference between the two? If so, where do you draw that line?

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6 Answers

comicalmayhem's avatar

You can remember a video or a picture easier than you can remember an unrecorded moment because you can look back on that video or picture whenever you want. It’s artificial memory that helps our natural memory.

perspicacious's avatar

It improves nothing of value.

SavoirFaire's avatar

While these various devices are useful for preserving information, they aren’t improving our natural memory. In fact, every means of recording information from writing onward seems to have undermined our memories. People used to be able to memorize multiple epic poems and entire genealogies when all we had was an oral tradition. And while their memories were not perfect, the fidelity from telling to telling and generation to generation was actually quite good when there was no incentive to embellish.

This isn’t to say that these devices are a bad thing. They’ve just caused a change in how we allot our brainpower. People like to look back and say “it’s amazing what people could do back then,” and it’s quite true that people did some amazing things. But we do a lot of amazing things today, too. I’m fine with having to consult written records to find the name of my great-great-grandfather if it means I get a computer out of the deal.

wundayatta's avatar

Artificial memory would be memory that is like human memory, only built in an artificial way. Pictures are not artificial memory. Pictures and other media are memory aids. They are also records. We look at a record of an event in order to try to remember the event.

Using real memory takes a lot of effort. Memorizing things isn’t an efficient way of using brain power. You memorize tons of stuff, and little of it is useful. It’s much easier if you have an external catagloguing system that allows you to look up records as needed. You keep them in memory only as long as necessary to do what you want to do, then you forget it and move on.

Being able to do this neither improves natural memory nor does it create artificial memory.

Nimis's avatar

@wundayatta I didn’t mean artificial memory as in artificial intelligence. I meant artificial in the sense that we don’t really remember as much as we think we do. Documentation and recognition isn’t memory. That exists outside of us.

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