“Digital dependence ‘eroding human memory'” (http://www.bbc.com/news/education-34454264)
“Digital amnesia on the rise as we outsource our memory to the web” (http://www.sciencealert.com/digital-amnesia-on-the-rise-as-we-outsource-our-memory-to-the-web)
“Digital amnesia leaves us vulnerable” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/digital-amnesia-kaspersky-1.3262600)
Over the last few days, a number of news websites and news organisations around the world have run a story about a piece of research conducted by Kaspersky Lab. The study, pithily entitled “The rise and impact of digital amnesia: Why we need to protect what we no longer remember”, seems to have received widespread support from these organisations, in that the results have been published without any of the journalists questioning the methodology used in the study or for that matter the results themselves. Terrifyingly, the study states that “Connected devices enrich our lives but they have also given rise to the potentially risky phenomenon of digital amnesia…increasingly relying on devices to store information as our memory leaves us immensely vulnerable should the device be lost or stolen or the data compromised — particularly if we are out and about.”
I don’t know about you, but my risky behaviour as left me feeling “immensely vulnerable”, right now and I’m afraid to go “out and about”. I might just close the curtains…..
As Jennifer Aniston would say, “Here’s the science bit”: The researchers surveyed 6,000 male and female consumers, aged between 16 and 55+, with 1,000 from each of the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Benelux . The survey was undertaken online in February/March 2015.
That sounds like a fairly powerful study and given the number of people involved, the results should be very believable.
The only problem is that the participants in the study were only asked if they could recall phone numbers and it turned out that across Europe, up to 60% of adults could phone the house they lived in aged 10; but not their children (53%), or the office (51%) without first looking up the number. Around a third couldn’t call their partners.
Thankfully, Kaspersky Lab (short for “laboratory”….science-ey), a cyber-security firm, “is committed to helping people understand the risks their data could be exposed to and empowering them to tackle those risks”. Phew!
Memory is not only incredibly complex, but it has a limited capacity; we forget things that we don’t need to remember in order to remember things that we do. The fantastically named researchers Storm & Stone, examined if saving information to a device would effect the ability to learn and remember new information. Results showed that saving one file before studying a new file significantly improved memory for the contents of the new file. The authors suggest that “saving” provides people with the ability to dump memory onto the environment in order to reduce the interference it might cause to new learning and storing new information. Without going into more research and looking at these findings, would it not be as easy to say “Incredibly efficient human system dumps useless information” or “Human memory capacities enhanced by mobile devices”?