"Every perception is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination."

-- Gerald Edelman, Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge
Memory systems make memory into a choice, rather than an event left up to chance:Memory is far more important than people tend to think:Summary and ConclusionHow can we develop transformative tools for thought?2020-10-18Journal Memory systems are in their infancy: it is possible to increase effective human memory by an order of magnitude, even beyond what existing memory systems do; and systems such as the mnemonic medium may help expand the range of subjects users can comprehend at all. What would a virtuoso use of the mnemonic medium look like? There's some sense in which the mnemonic medium is “just” flash cards. The right conclusion isn't that it's therefore trivial; it's that flash cards are greatly underrated. In writing Quantum Country we treated the writing of the cards with reverence; ideally, authors would take card writing as seriously as Nabokov took sentence writing. Of course, we didn't reach that level, but the aspiration expands the reach of the medium. What would virtuoso or even canonical uses of the mnemonic medium look like? Memory systems can be used to build genuine conceptual understanding, not just learn facts: In Quantum Country we achieve this in part through the aspiration to virtuoso card writing, and in part through a narrative embedding of spaced repetition that gradually builds context and understanding. Mnemonic techniques such as memory palaces are great, but not versatile enough to build genuine conceptual understanding: Such techniques are very specialized, and emphasize artificial connections, not the inherent connections present in much conceptual knowledge. The mnemonic techniques are, however, useful for bootstrapping knowledge with an ad hoc structure. Continue reading…