But if we do get through all that, " We will have the unique opportunity to learn first-hand from the most hi-tech, research data-backed, psychological
By Michael Nielsen One day in the mids, a Moscow newspaper reporter named Solomon Shereshevsky entered the laboratory of the psychologist Alexander Luria.
Shereshevsky's boss at the newspaper had noticed that Shereshevsky never needed to take any notes, but somehow still remembered all he was told, and had suggested he get his memory checked by an expert.
Luria began testing Shereshevsky's memory. He began with simple tests, short strings of words and of numbers. Shereshevsky remembered these with ease, and so Luria gradually increased the length of the strings.
But no matter how long they got, Shereshevsky could recite them back. Fascinated, Luria went on to study Shereshevsky's memory for the next 30 years. Experiments indicated that he had no difficulty reproducing any lengthy series of words whatever, even though these had originally been presented to him a week, a month, a year, or even many years earlier.
In fact, some of these experiments designed to test his retention were performed without his being given any warning fifteen or sixteen years after the session in which he had originally recalled the words. Yet invariably they were successful. Such stories are fascinating. Memory is fundamental to our thinking, and the notion of having a perfect memory is seductive.
At the same time, many people feel ambivalent about their own memory.
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Given how central memory is to our thinking, it's natural to ask whether computers can be used as tools to help improve our memory. This question turns out to be highly generative of good ideas, and pursuing it has led to many of the most important vision documents in the history of computing.
A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility.
It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory. In his proposal for the web, Berners-Lee describes the need for his employer the particle physics organization CERN to develop a collective institutional memory, a pool of information to develop which could grow and evolve with the organization and the projects it describes.
These are just a few of the many attempts to use computers to augment human memory. From the memex to the web to wikis to org-mode to Project Xanadu to attempts to make a map of every thought a person thinks: In this essay we investigate personal memory systems, that is, systems designed to improve the long-term memory of a single person.
In the first part of the essay I describe my personal experience using such a system, named Anki. As we'll see, Anki can be used to remember almost anything. That is, Anki makes memory a choice, rather than a haphazard event, to be left to chance. I'll discuss how to use Anki to understand research papers, books, and much else.
And I'll describe numerous patterns and anti-patterns for Anki use. While Anki is an extremely simple program, it's possible to develop virtuoso skill using Anki, a skill aimed at understanding complex material in depth, not just memorizing simple facts.
The second part of the essay discusses personal memory systems in general. Many people treat memory ambivalently or even disparagingly as a cognitive skill: I'll argue against this point of view, and make a case that memory is central to problem solving and creativity.
Also in this second part, we'll discuss the role of cognitive science in building personal memory systems and, more generally, in building systems to augment human cognition.
The essay is unusual in style. It's not a conventional cognitive science paper, i. Nor is it a computer systems design paper, though prototyping systems is my own main interest.
Rather, the essay is a distillation of informal, ad hoc observations and rules of thumb about how personal memory systems work.Guide for writing influential Observation Essays with easy to understand instructions and compelling tips.
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