remembering memory

Nicholas Carr (not to be confused with Paul Carr) has a tremendous essay which follows the theme of his writing in general being a skeptic of Google and the modern information era. Just a teaser:

Our embrace of the idea that computer databases provide an effective and even superior substitute for personal memory is not particularly surprising. It culminates a century-long shift in the popular view of the mind. As the machines we use to store data have become more voluminous, flexible, and responsive, we’ve grown accustomed to the blurring of artificial and biological memory. But it’s an extraordinary development nonetheless. The notion that memory can be “outsourced,” as Brooks puts it, would have been unthinkable at any earlier moment in our history. For the Ancient Greeks, memory was a goddess: Mnemosyne, mother of the Muses. To Augustine, it was “a vast and infinite profundity,” a reflection of the power of God in man. The classical view remained the common view through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment—up to, in fact, the close of the nineteenth century. When, in an 1892 lecture before a group of teachers, William James declared that “the art of remembering is the art of thinking,” he was stating the obvious. Now, his words seem old-fashioned. Not only has memory lost its divinity; it’s well on its way to losing its humanness. Mnemosyne has become a machine.

The shift in our view of memory is yet another manifestation of our acceptance of the metaphor that portrays the brain as a computer.

It’s entitled, “killing Mnemosyne”. I reject that metaphor, as well, and this ties into my own skepticism on Singularity, as well.

UPDATE – Mark comments, and discusses the relevance to Exformation. Now there’s a Carrian concept! I also agree that our blogs are probably our modern-day “commonplace books”, but I am tempted to try and actually do one in paper. My problem is my handwriting speed is not fast enough to record my thoughts, and the result is usually illegible. So the blog is probably the best outlet. This is kind of ironic.