I will never forget the first time I browsed the web. I stayed up through the midnight hours, surfing the great cosmic sea in trance-like awe. Unlike the current crop of university graduates, my generation stands astride the digital divide. We remember the time before. And as liberating as the Internet has been, we have moments of profound fogyism.
Despite the reassurances that it isn’t memory loss but rather information overload that makes us increasingly dependent on the Internet for the name of that actor or the composer of that song – we are still anxious. We expect that data to be available on-board. Our IT service provider recently suggested we store our server on Cloud. Panic set in.
Not so the new members of our team. They experience total freedom to shed the flotsam of life, secure in the conviction that it will always be there for them if they need it. My mother could recall dozens of poems and recite them on demand. Who does that anymore? I recently attended the opening of Christopher Plummer’s one man show at Stratford: “A Word or Two.” The octogenarian kept us spell-bound for ninety minutes and didn’t miss a line. (I can’t remember the name of his play from one minute to the next).
A few years ago, I had a client whose customers were engineers making big budget decisions about municipal infrastructure projects. They were looking for ways to communicate with next generation managers who had not memorized complex data but rather learned how to access it as required. Guess that works for some professions but not sure I’d want my doctor pausing mid-surgery to check for the position of an organ!
A feature in the New York Times a few weeks ago by Harvard psychology professor, Daniel Wegner, urged us: “Don’t Fear the Cybermind.” He asks, “Has this computer dependency made people stupid?” He reassures us that we have nothing to fear. Groups of people have always shared memory responsibilities. Just as the troubadours took ownership of a strong oral tradition, or herbalists kept the secrets of ancient cures, we have always delegated memory. Today it’s just a little more sophisticated. Still it is cold comfort when I struggle for a word that just doesn’t come.