Moonwalking with Einstein

Joshua Foer

Moonwalking with Einstein

“Too often we talk about our memories as if they were banks into which we deposit new information when it comes in, and from which we withdraw old information when we need it. But that metaphor doesn't reflect the way our memories really work. Our memories are always with us, shaping and being shaped by the information flowing through our senses, in a continuous feedback loop. Everything we see, hear, and smell is inflected by all the things we've seen, heard, and smelled in the past.

In ways as obscure as sexing chickens and as profound as diagnosing an illness, who we are and what we do is fundamentally a function of what we remember.”

These paragraphs come from a book your writers read recently, titled Moonwalking With Einstein. It's subtitled The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, and gives an overview of current memory research, a cultural history of memory, and various tricks of the mentalist's trade to transform our understanding of human remembering. It's also the story of author Josh Foer's year of memory training that landed him in the finals of the U.S. National Memory Championship. Possessed of an average memory (like most of us) prior to his training year, Foer spent many hours improving his memory to the point where he actually won the championship.

At one point during his year of training and research, the author met an individual called simply EP, a man with one of the most severe cases of amnesia ever documented. Foer offers these thoughts:

“I thought of my own self fifteen years ago, and how much I've changed in the same period. The me who exists today and the me who existed then, if put side by side, would look more than vaguely similar. But we are a completely different collection of molecules, with different hairlines and waistlines, and, it sometimes seems, little in common besides our names. What binds that me to this me, and allows me to maintain the illusion that there is continuity from moment to moment and year to year, is some relatively stable but gradually evolving thing at the nucleus of my being. Call it a soul, or a self, or an emergency by-product of a neural network, but whatever you want to call it, that element of continuity is entirely dependent on memory.”

Whether your memory is acute or average, it's an integral part of what makes you who you are.

Be sure to read all about it!


Copyright 2012, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.