Today Joshua Foer stopped by Institute for the Future for a lunch talk.

Anyone who would name their book Moonwalking with Einstein:  The Art and Science of Remembering Anything (referencing a mnemonic device) is intriguing, and he also is the 2006 US Memory Champion.  Did I mention I love my job?

The conversation centered around the question:  How is the relationship between ourselves and our memories changing?  

Look back to look forward

Ancient scholars internalized printed texts so that they could share them by memory.  Then the printing press changed the relationship between ourselves and our memories.

More recently, people held memories of moments connecting with loved ones in their mind’s eye only until camera technologies changed all of that.  Today, critics of digital cameras remark how people seem to have a new self-consciousness around the shareability of the moments of their lives, making it more difficult to be fully present to any experience.  The debate continues…

Ourselves & Our Memories:  Emerging Questions for the Next Decade

  • What is human and what is machine? (See Michael Chorost’s Rebuilt:  How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human)
  • How will the very structure & function of the human brain change in response to how we use our memories (a la neuroplasticity)?
  • To what end are we offloading our memories via technology?  In an evolutionary sense, what is it that we’re freeing our minds up to do if we don’t spend as much time remembering content?
  • With whom will we choose to share our offloaded memories?  What might I gain or lose from being able to access your memories?  What new relationship paradigms are likely to form around memory-sharing?  How does our understanding of the human person change?
  • In sharing more of our memories with each other, are we moving toward the global brain (a view of shared consciousness posited by Peter Russell in The Global Brain Awakens:  Our Next Evolutionary Leap)?