08 March 2011

Our couch potato brains

In his new book, Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer looks at memory and its declining usage in our culture. The central thesis is that, as information becomes more readily available to us via external means, our brains are less practiced in the art of memory. Essentially, our brains used to be like Brad Pitt, but now they're more like Chris Farley.

The NY Times has a write-up:

Before writing was common, human beings had to use their own brains for information storage, and before books were indexed — making it possible to gain access to them in a nonlinear way — people labored under the “imperative to hold” books’ contents in their own mental hard drives simply to find particular bits of information. Poets in the oral tradition, like Homer, relied on repetition and rhythms and other patterns to recite their work from memory, and in the ancient world, exceptional memories were both exalted and widely known.


  1. Ever since you posted youarenotsosmart.com, I've been reading it whenever it's updated. I'm not sure why, because doing so makes me continually uncomfortable, as I realize more and more that I am really not so smart.

  2. Leta, you are the exception. You are TOTALLY so smart.