Artificial Memory

In this day and age where everyone is carrying around a cellphone/organizer, it feels like people have offloaded the responsibility of memorizing data onto devices, which may indeed be the correct evolutionary approach. Our lives are so intertwined with digital technology that many of us won’t know what to do without it.

Have you ever forgotten your own cell phone number even if momentarily when inquired by a person or an application? I’m always surprised at how easily I forget my own cell phone number. How does that even happen? Yet for some reason I can still remember my old home phone number which I have not used for over 5 or 6 years. In fact that number is no longer in service. When I was in elementary school, we didn’t have cell phones, so I jotted down friends’ phone numbers in a little notepad. But after awhile, you basically remember all your friends’ phone numbers where you don’t even have to look at your notepad anymore. Nowadays, I can’t even remember my own parents’ cell phone number. Honestly if I lost my cell phone or if it’s out of battery, I wouldn’t really know a number I could call. 911? The fact is we no longer see the number. We call people by looking up their names. When a call comes in, you don’t see a number, you see their name. In fact if I see #s (meaning my phone doesn’t recognize it), I automatically send it to voicemail. The only time I actually use my cell phone # is when I’m giving it to someone, and when you don’t do that often enough, you end up forgetting it.

Then there’s the problem with sense of direction and just a general idea of where things are located. Maybe this is just my problem. I’ve been in the Seattle area for over 5 years and for the 1st 4, I had no idea where anything was in Seattle, thanks to my GPS. Did you know until I stopped using my GPS, I never knew how to get to Andrew’s place w/o it, even though I’ve gone to his place probably 5 or 6x before then. About a year ago, I decided I really wanted to know where things were. Fremont, Capitol Hill, Belltown, Ballard – these were all things that existed in Seattle, but I had no idea how they connected to each other or how to get from 1 to the other. I don’t recall the last time I took out my GPS, but it’s only around in case I get lost. Nowadays I draw little maps on post-it notes and it’s been working wonders. I now know street names, landmarks to remember, and I hardly ever have to look up how to get to the same place twice.

And of course there’s birthdays, anniversaries, and so on. I doubt I can remember people’s birthdays these days without Outlook and Facebook. Heck, I sometimes forget even my own.

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  1. It’s the exact reason why I don’t even bother posting my birthday on FB. There’s not much meaning to someone who logged into FB and saw that it’s someone’s birthday and just copied and pasted someone elses happy birthday message. lol I’m more impressed when someone wishes me a happy birthday and it wasn’t with the help of Facebook.

    • There’s a much better privacy reason to not post your birthday on FB, but is it really that different if FB reminds the person or if you have an Outlook reminder? Then there’s the fact once you get a few birthday wishes posted on your wall, everyone just chimes in afterwards.

  2. For posterity:

    Thanks for posting that, Toland. I actually got into a huge fight with my boyfriend over this whole over-reliance on GPS thing. I am so absolutely fascinated by the human perception of space, and how the way in which we get from one place to another helps to shape our individual perceptions of who we are and where we live. =)