Accessing Our 'Other' Brain

Never memorize what you can look up in a book" - Albert Einstein

This quote by the brilliant physicist, Albert Einstein was in response to being asked if he knew what the speed of sound was off the top of his head. Einstein did not know the answer. You might not either, but i bet you could look it up in less than 5 seconds. What Einstein was referring to was the simple act of memorizing facts, versus training your brain to think outside the box. Although this quote was spoken in the 1920's, it has never been more applicable than in today's world. Clearly I am not implying that this should be taken literally. Facts that are pertinent are almost always retained, especially when they interest their target. If Einstein were alive today I think his revised quote would have sounded something more like "Why even have books at school, when I just have Google in my pocket". With information so easily accessible through the internet at the touch of a finger, people are memorizing less, and searching the internet to find facts.  

Even our mundane activities have been taken over by the Information Age. Think back to before you owned a cell phone. How many phone numbers did you have memorized? How many do you know off the top of your head today? Some people may even say they don't know their best friend's phone number anymore. What about when you are out with your friends, and a debate about a certain fact arises. The first thing most of us do now is hop on a computer, or grab our phones and look up the answer on the internet. Now GPS, Wikipedia, Google, Youtube and many more, give us all the information we need, whenever we want it. 

To compare our brains with that of a computer, it is almost as if we have shifted more from the role of a hard drive, to that of RAM (Random Access Memory for the non geeks). We store less data permanently these days, but we have access to far more information at any given time than ever before.  Being the age that I am I have lived half of my life pre-internet so I feel I have experienced first hand this shift in the way we handle our information on a day to day basis. From personal experience I can say with certainty that this 'ease of access' to information has hampered my ability to concentrate on one subject. I am constantly flipping through news articles, skimming facts, and learning about things from one subject to another. It's all out there! I could be on youtube watching how to tune up a race car and then be learning about the mating habbits of giraffes ten minutes later! But is the new direction we are heading for the better or for the worse? 

I am inclined to believe that with the benefits of having information when and where we want it, along with an improved ability to solve problems without having previous knowledge on the subject, that this direction is mostly for the good. If one person knows how to do a complicated math problem using a formula from memory, but another person can solve the same problem using a calculator, what is the difference between them? What if one person has 'the facts' memorized on a subject, and another person can look up the same information in seconds, are they any different? Both now have the acquired knowledge. We are starting to rely less on our own knowledge and more on the collective knowledge amassed through individuals who specialize in particular areas. The accessibility of information has eroded the practicality of simply memorizing facts, just to show proof of memorization.  It is not so much the regurgitating of information that is as important in today's world, but more the knowledge of how to access it and quickly.  

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