Tag: memory (page 1 of 2)

Human and computer memory

There are some good points made in this article about ‘desktop’ operating systems but it’s a bit Mac-centric for my liking. I’m pretty sure, for example, the author would love ChromeOS or another Linux-based operating system.

One really interesting point is the difference between human memory and computer memory. In my own life and experience, I use the latter to augment the former by not even trying to remember anything that computers can store and retrieve more quickly. Kind of like Cory Doctorow’s Memex Method.

Maciej Cegłowski’s powerful “The Internet With A Human Face” highlights the cognitive dissonance between human memory (gradiated and complex and eventually faulty) and computer memory (binary: flawless or nonexistent). We should model fragment search and access after human memory, using access patterns and usage patterns as rich metadata to help the computer understand what is important and what is relevant. And what is related to what. That doesn’t mean auto-deleting documents after some period of time, but just as it’s a lot harder to Google something generic that happened a decade ago and garnered little attention since, it doesn’t need to be “easy” to find the untitled scratch spreadsheet we cooked up to check the car payment budget in 2013 (but we should be able to find it if we need to).

Source: Why We Need to Rethink the Computer ‘Desktop’ as a Concept | by Ben Zotto | May, 2021 | OneZero

Reafferent loops

In Peter Godfrey-Smith’s book Other Minds, he cites work from 1950 by the German physiologists Erich van Holst and Horst Mittelstaedt.

They used the term afference to refer to everything you take in through the senses. Some of what comes in is due to the changes in the objects around you — that is exafference… — and some of what comes in is due to your own actions: that is reafference.

Peter Godfrey-Smith, Other Minds, p.154

Godfrey-Smith is talking about octopuses and other cephalopods, but I think what he’s discussing is interesting from a digital note-taking point of view.

To write a note and read it is to create a reafferent loop. Rather than wanting to perceive only the things that are not due to you — finding the exafferent among the noise is the senses — you what you read to be entirely due to your previous action. You want the contents of the note to be due to your acts rather than someone else’s meddling, or the natural decay of the notepad. You want the loop between present action and future perception to be firm. Thus enables your to create a form of external memory — as was, almost certainly, the role of much early writing (which is full of records of goods and transactions), and perhaps also the role of some early pictures, though that js much less clear.

When a written message is directed at others, it’s ordinary communication. When you write something for yourself to read, there’s usually an essential role for time — the goal is memory, in a broad sense. But memory like this is a communicative phenomenon; it is communication between your present self and a future self. Diaries and notes-to-self are embedded in a sender/receiver system just like more standard forms of communication.

Peter Godfrey-Smith, Other Minds, p.154-155

Some people talk about digital note-taking as a form of ‘second brain’. Given the type of distributed cognition that Godfrey-Smith highlights in Other Minds, it would appear that by creating reafferent loops that’s exactly the kind of thing that’s happening.

Very interesting.

If you have been put in your place long enough, you begin to act like the place

Astronaut on the moon with an Anarchist flag planted

📉 Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit

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🤔 It’s Not About Intention, It’s About Action

💭 Are we losing our ability to remember?

🇺🇸 How The Presidential Candidates Spy On Their Supporters


Quotation-as-title by Randall Jarrell. Image from top-linked post.