Working Memory

As Carr works his way through his arguments on how our minds and way of thinking are changing with the advancements of technology, I find myself drawn to his statements on memory in chapter 9. Carr claims that “The Web is a technology of forgetfulness.” on page 193, basing this on how the internet places pressure on our working memory which inhibits its ability to transfer thoughts and ideas to long term memory. What I find as I read this is that his evidence appears solid, most of his examples eloquently point to this notion that we are rapidly losing our ability to recall moments and information long term as we used to, however, what’s most curious is that I don’t fully agree that this is a bad thing.

Human memory is extremely fickle and subject to change or loss of details over time; events and information become skewed as other more recent happenings replace the space used for a previous memory. Carr even admits to this and points out that the contingency of memory is what adds “richness and character” to our minds, contrasting the memory of machines as cold and static. But isn’t it better to have a memory remain exactly as it was, as if it were that very moment frozen in time? In court cases, human memory accounts for little of the overall ruling as it has been proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted, but the evidence of cold, hard facts, much like the static continuity of a computer’s memory, is incapable of changing its story or lying about events. Isn’t it better, then, to have a resource that can be recalled again and again without its contents morphing or disappearing?

Even in the case of enhancing creativity, I think to research done in schools on how to increase productivity and creative learning in the classroom. To me, it seems as if Carr portrays technology as an instigator of laziness as well as the bane of manual memorization which was once so important to society, but as we’ve learned over time, rote memorization does not work to enhance the learning capabilities of children in a classroom. Poring over written notes on an event in history which is available at their fingertips on the world wide web does not allow for a child to really contemplate the importance of that event, as they are too busy trying to memorize the dates and the people involved. Although Carr may argue that this ability to bypass the process of memorizing information is leading the way to an inability to remember things with clarity, I do believe that instead, it allows for people to eliminate memorizing things of less importance in order to focus their mental abilities on unique ideas.

The image I present here caught my interest in that we are, in a way, becoming more in tune with technology. As I believe, a consistent and efficient memory, like that of a computer or phone, may not be such a bad thing after all.

Credit: Brian A. Jackson/Shuttershock

Author: elyssa i

I'm excited to use social media for a course!

4 thoughts on “Working Memory”

  1. I find your response very interesting, and I definitely agree that having access to all this information is a benefit of technology. Carr seems to only focus on the downsides of technology, but because of these advancements we no longer have to rely on our own memorization skills to recall information. The internet, like you said, is,”…a resource that can be recalled again and again without its contents morphing or disappearing.”


  2. I had similar thoughts regarding Carr’s views on the memory in the sense that I think it is the person’s persistence and ability to revisit and learn a piece of information rather than the search engine of choice that is important. What difference does it make if one learns the same fact from Google versus a book in the library? A fact is a fact, if it’s true it will be the same in both mediums. A lot of times we want to blame something to avoid pointing fingers at ourselves.


  3. Specialization of attention does seem inevitable. The dangers of this seem a bit understated though… leaving memory up to technology seems like it can be dangerous. This reminded me of Black Mirror, a show that displays the potential dangers of technology in the future.


  4. Everyone has a different way of internalizing information. The old method of rote memorization by taking vigorous notes and re-reading them over and over to remember a point isn’t always the most effective for people. For myself, I would mainly only memorize these facts for the tests they were presented on. I think that’s why people with photographic memory tend to get higher scores, because they can recall facts with perfect clarity every time, just like a computer.


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