Author and 2006 U.S.A. Memory Champion Joshua Foer discussed his book Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything before a packed venue last night in Campbell Hall as the final event of the 2013 UCSB Reads program.
The event was co-hosted by UCSB Arts & Lectures and UCSB Reads, an annual program that encourages campus community members to read a selected book and participate in various on-campus events based around the theme of the book. In his lecture, Foer examined how the availability of information made possible by technology has affected the way people comprehend and memorize facts.
Foer said because our society emphasizes a “breadth of knowledge” over “depth of knowledge,” people consume a huge amount of information on a daily basis without actually taking the time to absorb and remember what they are reading.
“We are living amid an epidemic of amnesia, but I want to make the case that forgetting is not the sickness, it’s the symptom — of a kind of shallowness, of a kind of superficiality in how we engage with our educations and, more broadly speaking, how we engage with the world,” Foer said.
According to Foer, this issue is particularly important in the context of education, where students are faced with the task of processing huge quantities of course material in a relatively short amount of time.
“You will not remember most of what you learn here at UCSB. We spend the better part of our formative years in schools having information crammed into our skulls … and yet an astonishingly small amount of it actually sticks around into adulthood,” Foer said. “What is profoundly strange is that we all know this to be the case and yet we don’t find it to be particularly weird, even scandalous.”
In order to address this dilemma, Foer emphasized the importance of becoming fully immersed in learning and spacing out information intake into defined intervals in order to give the brain the time it needs to fully grasp concepts.
“There are a whole host of tricks that I learned which date back to antiquity that are effectively shortcuts for making unmemorable information memorable by giving it a sort of artificial context,” Foer said.
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of March 5th, 2013’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.