Back to home

Is the Internet an extension of human memory?

Just my rough thoughts on excessive computing and human memory. Possibly analogous to “are calculators bad for teaching math”. Would love to hear thoughts on the matter, sorry in advance for my poor articulation.

My observation

Lately I’ve noticed when I wish to recall facts/knowledge I without hesitation open a new tab and perform a quick search. Most of the time I find what I was after instantly. What I find humorous is that when I go to recall the information my brain tells me to search and what keywords to search for.

So effectively what I have done is when I first acquired the information I associated the “search” action with the memory instead of what I actually found. Essentially creating a shortcut/middleman to a quality repository of information but possibly sacrificed through laziness my ability to actually absorb the information.

Using my memory normally I would generally look straight for the fact or information I was after. This association of search terms is probably a symptom of laziness/convenience and I am unsure of whether it enhances or un-enhances my productivity.

A simple/personal example would be when learning a programming language I sometimes don’t really bother learning the syntax or methods as I know I can simply search for them.

My dilemma

Now this can be most convenient in some circumstances because I can quickly find huge repositories of quality information.

Though as a biological human having epiphanies is a fast way to let your conscious evolve. But to have a basic epiphany I believe humans by accident/coincidence put together premises they have acquired over an arbitrary amount of time. But due to me not really committing information directly to my memory I have less premises to call on when thinking.

I feel that my ability to be creative is impaired because all I am turning my memory into is the “Contents Page” of what I know. So instead of a novel, I am a dictionary.


A practical solution could be to make a much more conscious effort when consuming information to store the ideas behind it first then store the path to the full repository. I presume this already happens quite a bit but realizing how many web sites I have visited makes me skeptical.

I would love to hear what you have to say on the subject!

Update: s2r2 from hacker news posted a link to an actual study and if you enjoyed this post, you will definitely enjoy this

Update 2: For anyone who doesn’t have enough time to read the above, xkcd made a joke out of this lol

blog comments powered by Disqus