Does technology rob us of our memory asks Chris Deery of Solihull

Does technology rob us of our memory asked Chris Deery, Head of Information and Communications Technology, at Solihull Council.

I recently read about a study that said people can’t commit information to memory anymore because tablets and smart phones mean the data is just a click away. They called the tendency “Digital Amnesia” — the experience of forgetting information that you trust a digital device to store and remember for you. The study said that 91% of those surveyed said they use the Internet as an online extension of their brain. In addition 44% said their smartphone serves as their memory; everything they need to remember is right there in their pocket.

“In many societies, having access to the Internet feels as stable as having access to electricity or running water,” says Dr. Kathryn Mills, with the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London.

The on-line study was undertaken in May 2015 by research firm Opinion Matters. They surveyed 1,000 United States consumers, aged between 16 and 55+, split equally between male and female.

You might think that surveying 1,000 people in a country with a population of almost 325 million isn’t exactly statistically significant and to be honest  I am not sure I completely agree with the implied conclusion that we are all becoming reliant on technology to help us remember everyday information.

Anecdotally, I sometimes feel that I used to be able to remember things like telephone numbers a lot better when I was younger.  But in those days I only had my home landline number to remember. Now I have a home landline number, a work landline number, a personal mobile number and a work mobile number. Not only that, I have 3 different email addresses and probably more than a dozen different passwords that I need to remember. So my memory probably works harder now that it did when I was 20.

Of course I am lucky enough to have a reasonable memory. These days technology can be a really helpful tool to help those of us who are suffering from illnesses like Alzheimer’s.  Take Google Glass, for instance. This technology can take pictures, gives directions, and translates languages.

Through its Google GPS system, Google Glasses may be able to help people with Alzheimer’s. Prompting them with reminders on where they want to go and how to get there, Glass also supports memory function. Pensioners can keep up with daily walks, trips to the grocery store and other ventures that help them feel more independent and in control. Additionally, Google Glass provides facial recognition features that connect faces with names and relationships. So, older people who wear them would have immediate cues as to who is standing in front of them. What’s more, relatives and caregivers can use features of Glass to monitor a senior’s location.

All of this could help slow down the progression of the illness and allow people to live independently for longer.

So my personal view is that technology is probably not robbing us of our ability to remember everyday bits of information. In fact, for most of us it’s probably helping us to hang on to the cognitive skills we already have and for those people who have serious memory problems it can help the brain make new connections and allow people to live happy and independent lives for longer than they otherwise would have been able to.