Technology over my memory

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By Corinne Love

By Corinne Love

Recently, I was shopping at a supermarket stocking up on cookies, candy and more cookies, when the total came up on the screen the cashier asked me for my club card.

I entered the number into the touch pad and on the third digit, I simply forgot the number.

It was very strange indeed, for two years I had this number memorized like the back of my hand, but for some odd reason I could not retrieve the number from my memory.

It could be that I just went blank, but the oddity was that just yesterday I knew the number.

According to recent research, this could be explained as another by product of technology advancing ever so quickly in the last couple years.

As reported on, (Wired magazine’s official online zine) this summer neuroscientist Ian Robertson collected information from 3,000 people and found that younger people had trouble remembering basic personal information.

Surprisingly, when he asked a third of the pollsters for their phone numbers, they had to take out their cell phones to get the information.

This generational unique trait has been dubbed by author Cory Doctorow as an “outboard brain,” meaning technological reliance on information such as dates, numbers, trivial references and stats. These parts of memory can now be stored on flash drives, iPods, cell phones, PDAs and of course computers.

For example, on a recent episode of “The Office,” (NBC’s hilarious American version of the British mockumentary-type sitcom) Region Manager Michael (played by Steve Carell) drives his car into a lake as a result of his dependence on the GPS system in his car.

It was obvious that there was a lake coming up (there was even a sign.)

However, Michael could have simply “forgot” that the lake was on the right, but because the GPS system (and his dependency on the device) did not mention the lake, therefore, it did not exist.

Now, this does not mean that you or someone you know will drive their car into a lake if you only use MapQuest to get places, but it’s a funny story that I wanted to use to illustrate my point.

Now lakes and cars aside, researchers have noted that “freeing up” our minds does leave space for other memories to be stored. But what exactly? Imagine your friend throwing a hissy fit with you because you don’t know their birthday (by heart) but you know the words to Lou Bega’s “Mambo No.5.” Hello lyrics engine, goodbye friend.

Imagine losing your cell phone-it happens quite often and when it does, people practically panic, all of that information is now simply gone.

Losing your cell phone (or Blackberry) can leave you feeling lost, hopeless, and fatigue (and may even cause death-don’t worry I made that up).

If scientists liken our minds to that of complex working machines, then technology would serve as an external hard drive saving more information.

You know, in case our “gray matter” crashes, causing us to forget.

I’ve seen people quite often when getting someone’s number or address immediately whip out their phones and that’s that.

We store everything on these pieces of technology. The dependency is a bit alarming and somehow, cool.

Perhaps if I’d store the supermarket club card number on some handy dandy electronic device, I might have been able to save what appeared to be $1.96.

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