The ‘Google Effect’: We are all suffering from Digital Amnesia
Do you remember the name of that one movie with Robert De Niro? You don’t remember? Then you will probably just Google it to find out. Do you know your mother’s phone number by heart? Why should you, the number is stored in your smartphone. Recent studies suggest that the abundance of information and the accessibility of information through the internet are changing the way of how our memory works. Technology is presumed to change the very way how our brains store information.
Information is everywhere and it is overwhelming. Smartphones increase the accessibility of information even further with Google and Wikipedia at our fingertips. If that is not enough, Facebook and other social media are smashing information in our faces. In order to deal with all the information around us, we tend to save it in our smartphones and pc’s. We literally are ‘outsourcing’ our memories to external devices or the internet. When information is stored in these external devices, our brains do not worry about it anymore. As a result, our brains’ cognitive processes alter which leads to digital amnesia: “the experience of forgetting information that you trust a digital device to store and remember for you”.
So is technology making us dumber? Researchers do not believe so. We are just handling information differently. Instead of taking the effort of remembering, we just search for the answers online. Because we know that answers can be found, our brains have learned to rely on the internet rather than remembering the information itself. Our brains have become more efficient in learning where and how to find information. Consequently, the internet is treated as an extension of our own memory.
However, it is the dependency of our brain on technology what is concerning. For example, when your smartphone’s battery is empty, or the internet itself is out, you cannot use Google to access your ‘outsourced’ memory. Even worse, our external memories will be lost when hard disks or the cloud fails. Because we are so used to outsource our memories, we do not think about how vulnerable our external memories are. Researchers do not yet know what long-term implications digital amnesia has. Should we invent ways to better secure our external memories? Or do we need to train our brains in order to stay fit? I do not know. For now, I’ll just stick to Google.
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