Thanks for the Memory

A paradigm is a model or example that helps us understand something complex. I want you to consider re-thinking your paradigm of what you believe memory to be. The reason is that memory is the playing field where the game of creativity takes place. Without it you can’t be creative and neither can you know what being creative is. Let me explain.

There are two types of memory, long and short. Short term memory holds data for up to 30 seconds and can only retain it after that by constantly re-entering it. This is why you forget a telephone number just after looking it up (unless you keep saying it).

Long term memory is associations. Nothing can exist in your memory unless it’s connected to a multitude of other things: it’s colour, taste, time, sounds, emotions, history, people, places. You can’t have a thing in memory (a memorand) just floating around, it has to have a place with in the network of associations. But that ‘place’ is not a ‘pigeon hole’. This is the first part of the memory paradigm that we need to re-consider. Our memory does not work like a computer which stores lists of data which can be wiped. The memorands in our memory cannot be wiped, but their associations can be reconfigured.

Now, do you feel you have good or bad memory? Most people assume they have a bad memory, but in fact they don’t. That’s like saying you have a bad hope or a bad electricity in your mains. There is no such thing as good or bad memory – only untrained memory.

If you have ‘forgotten’ something you’ve somehow messed up the process of Recording, Retaining or Retrieving the information. Usually it’s the first one, Recording (you didn’t hear the person’s name) or Retaining (you didn’t put the person’s name with associations into your long term memory) or it could be Retrieving is your weak point (you didn’t store the name with relevant associations so can’t recall it easily, although it is ‘in there’.

Can your memory be full? No, since associations can be infinite. Experts on memory suggest that there is no limit to human memory apart from the paradigm that creates limitations. Memory is a process not a ‘thing’. In fact I would go as far as saying you do not even have a memory, you ‘do’ memory, it’s an activity. Experts have also done experiments that have discovered that supposed long-lost memory is actually still there, just temporarily inaccessible.

Where is your memory? This may start to sound a little metaphysical but hang in there – we assume our memory is in our brains, where we also assume our ‘mind’ to be. Think about this – there is no evidence to suggest this is the case. No really, there isn’t! We surmise it is there, we extrapolate that it’s there, we have a theory that it is there. Have a think for a moment where else it could be. (This is easier if you play a musical instrument – it app ears that your fingers know what to do.) Then think about this: if you smashed your tv during the news, would you assume that the newsreader was dead? No, the broadcast would continue but you wouldn’t be able to receive it, that’s all. It’s just a theory, but no better than the one we have. (If you have proof of where memory is or where the mind actually is you deserve the Nobel prize.)

So how about this for a new paradigm: You have an excellent memory, capable of unlimited storage and fantastic feats of recall and free association from your entire human experience. That’s much, much better. Thanks for the memory!

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3 comments on “Thanks for the Memory

  1. Great descriptions of a process that takes an enormous amount of brain. Some areas are more important for memory than others, hence studied in research on dementia etc. That said the Nobel prize will have to go to other contributors of different paradigms for some time to come. So for now, I think I like your new paradigm and let’s face it, if we put the brain in a positive state all those neurotransmitters will have a fine old time and as a result, we’ll be more efficient, effective and happier. Thanks for the memory too!


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