I came across a wonderful article via Digg entitled “Want to Remember Everything You’ll Ever Learn? Surrender to This Algorithm”.
The title is a most alluring one, but inside the 7-page article lies a nugget of true wisdom. Although the goal in life is to know and remember things you come across, where is the line drawn between social interaction and intellectual study?
The man in the article, Piotr Wozniak, created a piece of software named SuperMemo, which allows the user to remember tidbits of information indefinitely using a spacing reminder technique. As wonderful as infinitely-long term memory sounds, it comes at a price.
When one learns a new bit of information, there is a certain amount of time that passes before that piece of information is forgotten. The software helps you get a refresher right at the moment you would forget, thereby increasing the amount of time you can remember that information. This sounds wonderful, but if you misuse the software by skipping a session (which is determined by the software), you could be doing more harm then good when it comes to remembering that information.
The idea behind this isn’t new, and the article goes into the specifics, but it certainly isn’t going to catch on with students or teachers anytime soon. While it’s great to think that you will never again forget any information that you place in the hands of this software; giving your life over to a piece of software–often shunning your social relationships in the process–just doesn’t seem like a grand idea overall.
While the pursuit of knowledge does weigh heavily on me, I don’t think I could give myself over to something of this sort. Having a wife, child, normal sleeping habits and a job doesn’t lend well to seemingly random study sessions that can’t be missed.