Emerging Tech

People over 50 recall more personal information than those under 30

A recent poll found that younger people are not able to recall personal details as well as their older counterparts. One third of the younger people in the survey had to take out their cell phones just to remember their own phone numbers, and even relative's birthdays were out of reach for many.

A recent poll found that younger people are not able to recall personal details as well as their older counterparts.  One third of the younger people in the survey had to take out their cell phones just to remember their own phone numbers, and even relative's birthdays were out of reach for many.

"When [neuroscientist Ian] Robertson asked his subjects to tell them a relative's birth date, 87 percent of respondents over age 50 could recite it, while less than 40 percent of those under 30 could do so."

This growing trend is indicative of the changing nature of our world and clearly shows how much humans depend on technology.  From email and home addresses to lunch and dinner dates, from trivia and pop culture references to airline and bus schedules, our society has started to change from one in which we keep these facts in our head to one in which we simply look up that information when we need it.

Your Outboard Brain Knows All (Wired)

Google is doing all they can to make sure that we continue this trend, with the most prominent strategy being their new deals to put a lite version of their familiar web search on cell phones.  In addition, they are also working out new deals to put Google Maps kiosks onto gas pumps that will allow the user to print driving directions from the pump.  There are a number of good reasons for keeping information that can be Googled from cluttering up one's mind, as computer memory is cheap and getting cheaper, with researchers at Arizona State University announcing the possibility of a thumb drive that could store a terabyte of information once the nanotechnology matures enough.

T-Mobile Wagers Deal With Google Is Worth the Risk (Wall Street Journal)

Google Gives Drivers A Hand At The Gas Pumps (Information Week)

Nanotechnology to enable video of entire human life (Foresight Nanotech Institute)

For a number of years now, I have had a policy that I really try to stick to:  If it can be Googled, I don't have to remember it.  That dovetails nicely with my professional life where my greatest strength is not my knowledge of everything geek, but my ability to effectively search for that information when I need it.  Still, it seems a little odd to me that so many people can't even remember their own cell phone number, though they are simply taking my policy to the extreme.

How much information do you actually commit to memory?  Are you an eidetic savant, memory challenged, or somewhere in between?  Can you rattle off your phone number off the top of your head?  I can, but don't ask me for my best friend's number, I will have to look it up on my phone!

6 comments
Freebird54
Freebird54

I am apparently somewhat of an oddity these days - as I remember most of this kind of thing without any effort. It is difficult to know what use it might be to recall the phone number we had (at age 5) when only 6 digits were required (in a large city!)!! Such often useless things as the serial numbers of my vehicles, driver's license number (sometimes useful), school friend's phoine number from when I stayed in England for a year- they seem to stick forever. One good thing though - with some minor mix and match you can create great.secure passwords!

don.gulledge
don.gulledge

Just the other day, I was trying to do a numeric calculation in my head and was surprised how long it took my brain to work it out. I???ve gotten so used to the calculator doing my work that my brain has gotten very lax at doing it alone. After all, I am of the calculator generation more than the computer generation. Being a PK, I spent a lot of my youth memorizing and regurgitating. I think this ensured I would attain a great memory although it did nothing for my brother. It???s like everything else in life. We use it or we loose it. I don???t think that clutter or how much information is around has anything to do with it. I think it???s more about the filters we develop in life to keep or discard what we need. I don???t think the younger generations are developing the filters that work well for long term memory. I may not remember the words to the Star Spangled Banner as I get older, but the memory that I knew them all at one time will always remain. Great Filter! Memory seems to be subjective. Some people have the capacity to retain useless facts while others do not. I think it???s more biological than mechanical. Having five siblings, all of have a different memory capacity and no two are the same. The ones that don???t have it, rely more on cheat sheets and gadgets for remembering. The ones that do have it, rely more on their own memories. It???s simply a matter of genetics. Not technology.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Hard to believe phones didn't always have a contact list, huh? You didn't know the numbers because you thought it was fun, you knew them because there wasn't anything to remember FOR you. I have a picky rememory. ;\ Events and the details of the event are not a problem, but worthless pits of detail like dates don't stay with me. Birthdays all go in my calendar, with reminders that pop up a week in advance AND the day before AND the day of. B-) The other issue is overload. There is so much NOISE thrown at us now, how are you suppose to absorb it all? 500 channels of crap and nothing good is on. Guess we could just medicate everyone.....

sboverie
sboverie

Hmm, I am over 50, but I think that there has always been a knowledge gap between the old and the young. I remember hearing the same kinds of comments about the youth being rude and arragant; and being over 50 I can see that youth are rude and arrogant.

Tig2
Tig2

But also know that I have an odd ability to remember things. When I was in kindergarten, we were required to remember our address and phone number. As a budding thespian, I memorized page upon page of script as well as stage direction. And I can recite a great deal of it today- along with relevant birthdays, anniversaries, and other minutiae. I have absolutely no sense of direction, however so Google at the gas pump is a good thing. Oh wait... I bought my last tank of gas about a month ago- don't drive much anymore, get great mileage when I do. But I can still see the benefit. I still believe that you can't Google everything. And there are things that the PDA can't really do. Like record experience. Or look forward to a remembered occasion. Maybe that is the reason you still need us dinosaurs.

Andy Moon
Andy Moon

I really would be lost without Google Alerts telling me when my relative's birthdays are, keeping track of important events, and a DVR that frees me from even having to know when certain TV shows are on. I would be even more lost without the knowledge of an entire world at my fingertips, as it is now with the Internet. I really don't know how I worked before these resources were available to me. Maybe I just worked more at memorization.