I recently finished reading the book Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. A longtime Little Memory user and the force behind Tangents & Distractions, Dan Walsh, was so incredibly gracious to send me a copy. Thanks, Dan.

Memory and Creativity #

We don’t usually associate memory and creativity together; they are likely even considered to be opposites to most people. What kind of creative endeavor is it to memorize the multiplication table? Or that long list of Kaplan SAT words? <shudder!>

“In our gross misunderstanding of the function of memory, we thought that memory was operated primarily by rote. In other words, you rammed it in until your head was stuffed with facts. What was not realized is that memory is primarily an imaginative process. In fact, learning, memory, and creativity are the same fundamental process directed with a different focus,” say Buzan. “The art and science of memory is about developing the capacity to quickly create images that link disparate ideas.

The way I think about it is that memory and creativity are both incarnations of the brain’s association machine. Essentially, both are just making connections in your mind.

Creative Computers #

This got me to thinking: computers are really good at remembering things. Computers have yet, however, been able to make much headway into the realm of creativity. Sure, we have fancy Avatar computer graphics and huge datacenters filled with pirated movies, but where are the computers that make art?

What if computers could be creative too? What if computers could tell us jokes? What if we could offload creative tasks to computers like IBM’s Watson?

If creativity stems from the same root of the mind’s association machine, it may not be so far-fetched to imagine a computer building associations with its vastly superior memorization prowess. Amazon and Netflix currently have recommendation engines, and Google already has quite the association builder. What would it look like if we redirected that technology to create new art?

Memory and Mindfulness #

This has to be my favorite quote from the entire book:

What I had really trained my brain to do, as much as to memorize, was to be more mindful, and to pay attention to the world around me.

This is what Little Memory has been about since day one: giving you an easy way to remember to think about your day. I understood why Dan suggested this book to me.

When people can’t remember others’ names, really, it’s just a matter of not caring about who the person is who you just met was. Do you really think if the guy or gal of your dreams were to tell you their name that you’d actually forget it?

The same can be said for all the other little things that you have to end up doing every day of your life. Doesn’t it seem like some days, you suddenly realize that time has gone by and you can’t remember what the heck you did with all the time? Maybe you just weren’t paying attention. Maybe you were just living your fishbowl life, not minding the water, and just floated through your time instead of participating in it. What a waste!

One can even think that only the remembered life is meaningful because you wouldn’t have remembered it if it weren’t meaningful. Or, as Foer put it:

In trying to capture it, one gets in the habit of noticing, and appreciating.

Let’s remember to notice and appreciate all the little things in our lives. I don’t think computers will ever be able to do that for us.