By Eve Edwards
I was amused and challenged by an article I read in the Guardian newspaper on the theme of the damage done to our memory by our frequent resort to Google to answer those nagging little questions. Apparently we are becoming ‘symbiotic’ with our computers, or, as I would put it, ‘cloud-sourcing’ our memories so that we know we don’t have to remember something accurately as so long as we have a crumb to follow the trail back home to the answer.
In short a Google brain means we are lazy and no longer can be bothered to have a proper filing system in our own brains, only half grasping our information.
This is a wonderfully modern dilemma and the article prompted me to wonder how much of my own personal history Google has taken over. I can date the first ‘lazy’ memory to at least fourteen years ago when I was singing my child to sleep. You know that moment – small hours of the morning, you are tired, want something soothing to send crying infantback into slumbers and you find a song from your own childhood popping into your head. In my case it was ‘Land of the Silver Birch’ learned at Guide Camp round the fire. I could remember the first verse then came a bit unstuck.
Next day, I rushed to Google and found the rest of the verses for other nights so I didn’t have to drive myself crazy repeating the same words ad nauseam. Problem was: the words on Google that I found were slightly different from the version I learned in the 1980s in Epping Forest to the crackle of twigs and taste of instant hot chocolate. In the end, new version over-wrote my original memory and this is the one my children now sing.
So the question I have for those of you reading the blog is what should we do about it? Does it matter? I do feel more intelligent these days – able to answer questions that come up in my writing really quickly by a careful use of search engines, but is this at the cost of something else in my life, a detailed memory that I am ditching as my brain outsources part of its function?
I’m going to lie on a beach with no internet access and think about this – if I still can!
Eve Edwards's The Rogue's Princess (Razorbill) is out now in the UK, The Other Countess (Random House) out now in the US.