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

Measure and Calculate

The idea that Carr talks about starting on page 44 is one of the most interesting to me. He talks about how, using technology as our tools, we “seek to expand our power and control over our circumstances.” As he continues on to classify them into four major parts, it is interesting how spot-on he is about how technology is simply human attempts at gaining control over nature, over each other, and over a thousand different things that we don’t SEE technology as, but it truly is this attempt to gain control.
Apart from Carr’s example of a fighter jet as an example of physical control (fighter jets are awesome), I believe the fourth technological classification category to be the most applicable to me as a business student. Carr notes that they can be referred to as “intellectual technologies.” A map or a clock would be examples of this category of technology. These are technologies we use to classify information, form ideas about certain things based on data and numbers. My laptop and the internet are examples of this technology as well because it expands my mental capacity and my ability to support my mind.
I found it very interesting that I don’t really stop and think about how much we calculate things – especially as a business student – and how I less often think about how someone had to “think up” a way to calculate this or that. How primitive certain calculations must have been thousand of years ago. How did we move from that to calculus, finite math, physics? Who was the first one to think of certain accounting principles for businesses? It’s insane to think about how much we calculate and try to understand things with research and data, but yet we don’t stop and think about how those calculations came to be. And how certain calculations at certain speeds weren’t available in the near past. How many math equations were done at <a href=””>NASA</a&gt; by hand before computer technology was really advanced?
Don’t get me wrong – I believe that the other categories of technology are important; extending our physical strength, extending the range of our senses, and reshaping nature to fit our needs are all important. I just thought that the technology that allows us to measure and calculate things and support our mental powers were more applicable to me as a business major. With all the calculations I do for classes, I don’t know where I’d be without technology helping me.