Often it seems as if so much of our life is spent memorizing things and then trying to remember what we thought we memorized.
It starts in grade school and continues throughout our education–memorize, spit back, repeat.
Advances in education may actually recognize the need and try to get kids to think now-a-days, but there are still all the “fundamentals” that need to be put to memory, so you can pass the standardized tests like the SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, and more.
But we don’t just memorize to pass tests, we pride ourselves on what “we know” and we test ourselves and show off our expansive knowledge-base through things like board games such as Trivial Pursuit to game shows such as Jeopardy.
At work too, we hire, retain, and reward people based on their “knowledge, skills, and abilities” and recognize those who are true “subject matter experts.”
I remember friends who used to read the encyclopedia to increase their knowledge, and the Almanac with all the facts and figures–is still a best-seller. In Yeshiva, we also spent a good part of our high school years, memorizing from the Talmud.
The challenge for us in the 21st century is that knowledge is growing so fast that we as individuals can barely keep up with the volume and pace of change, so we specialize professionally and seek expert advice from others on areas outside our area of specialization.
Still we memorize and try to remember as much as we can. We read, watch TV, browse the Internet, travel, try new things, and fill our heads with incessant facts, memories, and chatter. And we become frustrated when we can’t remember names of people we recently meet, the punch line to a joke, the facts for a presentation at work, the spelling of a simple word, or even what we had for breakfast.
So rather than memorize and forget, people are turning to capturing events from their lives and playing it back when they need to recall information or are feeling nostalgic.
We do this when we take photos, videos, audiocasts, blog, tweet, etc. and then access these from our hard drives or the Internet though services like Flikr, YouTube, Podbeam, Blogger, Twitter, and so on.
Now we starting to move beyond recording just moments in times (i.e. snapshots) and instead capturing it all!
The Futurist (July-August 2011) reports that people are discovering things like Lifelogging–where through cameras, recording devices, and storage media, they record virtually “every instant of their lives.” We are nearing at a time, when this is becoming “not only feasible, but possibly even appealing” to the masses.
By recording the events of our life–whether in blogs, photos, audio or video recordings–and combining this with advanced search tools, lifelogging “could provide us with the equivalent of near total recall.”
Perhaps the ability to capture more and more of our lives digitally will make it unnecessary in the future to sit and memorize so many useful and useless facts and information.
We don’t have to remember everything in our heads, we just need to know how to access the information when we need it.
Learning does not have to be about memorizing but rather can be about critical thinking, and being an expert does not have to be about what you have memorized, as much as your experience and ability to think through problems and find solutions.