Do you remember when you had to remember everything yourself? No? Well, if you’ve forgotten those days, don’t worry, because they aren’t coming back.
If you’ve perfected your relationship with technology, then the memory on your smartphone means that you should never miss an appointment, lose someone’s contact details, or struggle to remember an important detail again. Mobile technology gives you perfect recall, freeing up your precious brainpower for other things.
But is all this advanced technology making things a little bit too easy? Is the fact that we almost always have an internet-connected device to hand making us lazy?
In a study conducted at Columbia University, subjects were asked to type facts and trivia into a computer. Half of the subjects were told that the information would be saved, while the other half were told it would be erased. The group who were told it would be erased were significantly more likely to remember the information.
In another test, they were asked to remember a trivia statement and which of five computer folders it was saved in on the computer; the subjects found it easier to recall the folder than the fact.
The researchers concluded that the internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory. (Transactive memory is a kind of collective external memory – it used to be the ‘group mind’ of a family, group, or team, but is increasingly being replaced by the web itself; our collective recollections stored on the omnipresent cloud.)