How much can a human being remember? Or is the question rather: what do you have to remember and what can you ‘download’ from an external memory, such as the internet? It is certain that the functioning of memory is constantly changing under the influence of our development and the environment. Changes that go faster and faster.
Memory: people are still investigating a lot about how it works and it is still a function of the brain that is difficult to investigate. Research carried out by the renowned Salk Institute for Biological Studies has shown that human memory is 10 times greater than previously thought possible. This memory is comparable to a million GB hard disk (one petabyte).
Remember or download?
The human memory is trained less than in the past. In the past, much more had to be remembered than today. This is due to the convenience of different devices making information available online everywhere. It is therefore less essential to remember. Research at Columbia University shows that the internet influences the functioning of human memory. As a result, people are less inclined to store information in their memory if it is easily retrievable on the Internet. They remember how to find the answer to the question the quickest, instead of remembering the answer. Transactive memory is it called.
To go back in history; between 1939 and 1942 we know that the first electric computer was invented by John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry. The memory was used in the form of two rotating drums with an electric charge. Between 1940 and 1950, the earliest form of working memory was created, which was called magnetic core memory. Since the advent of the internet, this technology has made a leap. In the beginning of the year 2000 it was normal for a computer to have 256 MB or 512 MB of working memory, but by now it is obvious that a good computer has at least one working memory minus 8GB – 16GB. The technical memory is skyrocketing.
Where are we going in the near future? How much further will the technology go in increasing memory capacity? Will we soon have computers as big as is considered possible for human memory, 1 petabyte? What will Artificial Intelligence do? Will there be other solutions? And where will we, as humans, stay among all the technology? In what ways will we continue to connect? Because an endless memory is easy, but of course we must not lose sight of human values.