• Phone Numbers
  • Directions
  • Common Information such as state capitals or the win/loss record of your favorite team
  • How much money you have in the bank or in your pocket for that matter
  • The birthdays of friends and acquaintances

 These are just a few of the things that I used to be able to remember. It’s funny how I don’t access my memory for this information often at all anymore. I’ve tried, but for the most part the information isn’t there. For example, I can remember a phone number from childhood but not a number given to me last week. Before I received my first ATM card years ago, I knew my checking account balance because I balanced my own checkbook, not my computer. I could watch Jeopardy without needing my Smartphone or iPad at arm’s length or closer.

So what happened? Did I become dumber? Did I simply get lazy? 

I don’t think so. I believe that things have become mentally convenient. It’s a common fact that humans are creatures of comfort. Mostly those comforts are physical in nature. And we’ve done pretty well; for example, automatic steering and the La-Z-Boy chair to name a couple. 

Until recently, I didn’t blatantly see any result of our desire for physical convenience affecting my mental sharpness, information recall or memory. If you were to ask me to give you my best friend’s phone number from memory or which team won the UNC/Duke Men’s Basketball rivalry last year, it might take me a little while to remember, if at all. 

What I could do, instantly, is reach into my pocket, retrieve my external memory (iPhone) and share that information with you verbally or digitally. 

With my external memory close at hand, I never get lost. All I have to do is ask my GPS how to get home. Everyday Facebook tells me the birthdays of my closest friends and furthest acquaintances. Is all of this assistance truly helpful or is it making our minds mush?

I’d like to call myself an optimist on this subject. I do believe that we are losing some of our mental capability to computers, Smartphones, GPS, Google and the like; but, maybe using these devices and technologies allow humans to store “quick use” or “transactional” information elsewhere, while using the extra brain power for solving harder problems and tackling big picture issues.

It’s just a thought. Having technology at our fingertips may hinder our ability to remember the transactional information, but perhaps, the convenience of information is making us smarter in the process after all?