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Immediacy April 25, 2009

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Odds and Ends.

I often marvel at my dad’s uncanny ability to commit facts and figures to memory. He can pore over pages and pages of reports at the office, or read through a book but once at blazing speed, and at the end of it all recount with vivid detail and unparalleled accuracy some numbers or facts that he’d come across. Effortlessly. Me? Not nearly so. I don’t have half as good a head for numbers as my dad, and even if I do have some proficiency at recalling things I’ve read, I have a tendency to forget them just as quickly (a personal trait my brother and I jokingly refer to as “garbage in, garbage out”).

Not that I ever asked him for one, but once my dad did offer an explanation for his sharp memory. “Before, I’d ask someone for a report at work and it would take a while for people to crunch the numbers for me,” he said. “To save time, I’d memorize the important data so that when the new reports came back I could immediately make decisions.” This was, of course, before the age of the personal computer. Now, things are markedly different. Today, information is just a Google away. Heck, maybe the argument can even be made that it’s even inefficient to commit anything to memory anymore.

It goes without saying I muse a lot about how technology affects the way we manage knowledge. I see the difference between my dad and myself and that between myself and students I’ve had to teach. The difference is sometimes like night and day. (Allow me to go on record and say I think the training of my dad’s generation is so much better.) What didn’t occur to me — particularly, at any rate — is that this also has a profound effect on how we experience the world, after a fashion. It’s for this reason that I found reading through JJ Abrams’ recent article for Wired Magazine positively delightful. He captures quite succinctly the problem with the information-at-our-fingertips culture we are living in, and elucidates intelligently upon all that gets lost in this Age of Immediacy.

Plus, it’s an article by JJ Abrams! For Wired! That alone is reason enough to check it out.

[JJ Abrams on the Magic of Mystery (via Wired)]



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