Non-biological memory

What's non-biological memory? Books... journals... web sites... blogs... e-mail stores... you name it. Anything that you can access that extends your biological memory, i.e., your brain. A blog post by Steve Maine provided me with some food for thought.

Reflecting back on the last couple of months, I notice that my smartphone and flat-fee wireless Internet access really increased my usage of electronic forms of non-biological memory. And an ever increasing part of my non-biological memory is Gmail. I regularly e-mail pieces of information to myself to make it easier to remember them. A pointer (1-4 words) to that information takes less space in my brain.

I store addresses and telephone numbers of my friends and family on my Pocket PC Phone now instead of on paper. Just a few clicks and TomTom Navigator will direct me to such an address.

I also use my non-biological memory for things I cannot store in my brain. Let me give an example. I am a careful traveller. So I used to take Xeroxed copies of my passport and driver's license with me in case the original documents were to be stolen or lost. No more! I scanned those documents and e-mailed much better-looking electronic copies to myself. One less thing to remember when going on a trip. When the need arises I just access my Gmail account and search for "paspoort"  (Dutch for passport). BTW: One of the great things of Gmail is the thumbnail view of image attachments. They fit in the small screen of a Pocket PC.

The scary part of increased usage of non-biological memory is increased dependence on it. I fear the moments the battery runs out on my smartphone or when I have no Internet connection. The moment will come that I will be lost on the road when the TomTom software crashes (as regularly happens). For my recent holiday in the US I took some old-fashioned road maps with me 😉

Also there might be some downsides to the fact that Google is indexing parts of my extended brain. Who knows what they might be doing with that information.

How are you coming to depend on your non-biological memory?

One thought on “Non-biological memory

  1. Frits Verduin

    I depend quite a lot on my pda. For over a year now it has been a really great tool for making notes, keeping appointments and having addresses or phonenumbers right there when I need them. Wouldn't want to have to do without it.

    It's just that it seems impossible to keep it going for more than a few days without charging. The Duracell bunny would never run all those long laps on my crappy iPaq battery.

    So Erwyn:

    Peace of mind is a great thing, but it never really comes at bargain prices ...


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