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Assignment: Technology’s effects on human memory

2500 years ago, Plato warned the Athenians that writing was a dangerous invention:

“If men learn this [reading and writing], it will implant forgetfulness in their souls. They will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks.

What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for a reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only the semblance of wisdom, for by telling them of many things without teaching them, you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part, they know nothing.”

Plato, Phaedrus

Recently, many people have raised the possibility that modern information technologies, like search engines, big data, and smartphone storage, might be similarly dangerous – because it is leading to our memory degenerating.

What do you think?

Think about and write in a clear and organized fashion possible reasons why modern technology might be bad, good, or neutral for human memory abilities.

Then find empirical research that is relevant to this question, and summarize it briefly in your own words.

Your assignment may be up to 750 words in length, max. It will be worth 10% of the course grade. Late submissions (up to 1 week) will be penalized 2 points (20%).

60% of the grade of this assignment will be based on the clear and orderly exposition of your own ideas about this question; 40% will be based on your independent summary of an empirical study (it can be one or more studies, as you wish). 10% extra credit will be given to students who present a relevant empirical study not used by anyone else in the class (you will need to dig deep 😊).

The assignment will be due on 8 April at 16:00.

Here are some links to begin with:

Are Google and smartphones degrading our memories? – Harvard Gazette

Is Google Ruining Your Memory? | WIRED

Is Google killing your memory? | TED-Ed

New research says internet use is killing your memory | World Economic Forum

The “online brain”: how the Internet may be changing our cognition – Firth – 2019 – World Psychiatry – Wiley Online Library

Can Technology Affect our Memory?: University of Illinois Extension

CogBlog – A Cognitive Psychology Blog » Google: An External Hard Drive for Our Memory

Google is making you more forgetful. Here’s why that’s a good thing. – The Washington Post

Is our use of digital technologies negatively affecting our brain health? We asked 11 experts. – Vox


Is Technology Destroying Our Memory? | PCMag