The Memory Dilemma

So over the past few months, I have been a little uncomfortable with the fact that no matter how much I learn or how well I understand a subject, at the end, after a while, my brain simply forgets; Detailed information is lost nightly.

Eventually I felt like I was constantly fighting to safeguard my hard earned understanding in hand written notes and text files (I mean understanding some physics and engineering concepts takes time). Sometimes it felt like memento (the movie) 😦 and that’s kind of sad. Also somehow these notes didn’t feel very useful afterwards and often “re-learning” the material was way easier.

The real question I kept coming back to was: apart from the intellectual joy of understanding what is the use of learning if not to acquire knowledge? I mean if you can not retain what you have learned long enough to use it in the future, what is the practical purpose of learning it in the first place.

So I thought for a while (probably for too long) and the only reasonable explanation that I came up with, is that I am using the wrong approach to work with my own “human” brain. There is one thing that is pretty evident; it is a lot easier to “re-learn” a concept when you have really learned it well, furthermore similar concepts in the same field are also easier to grasp.

So it seems, that in contrast to computers, the brain is really good (I mean like fully devoted) at learning but absolutely horrible at storing detailed information (e.g. facts and practical details) but that’s alright, because as you learn you seem to build a path… (a neural path?). The first time you learn a concept it can be very hard, but whenever you need to re-learn the concept the path is already made so it is actually fairly easy.

So I think a better way to work with the brain (maybe just mine) is to focus on building a good path (i.e. understanding concepts deeply) and let the brain clean the hard-drive as it desires, whatever…

so here is a quote, maybe a way to remember (or re-learn?):

“Don’t be so worried about forgetting what you have learned, this is a battle you can’t win. Use the brain efficiently, simply focus on learning deeply what matters most to you in any way that fits your style; focus on building solid paths not on finding ways to get the brain to store and retain more information. Only then, can you use the brain for what it is meant for: learning, re-learning and then learning some more” 🙂

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