The power to remember and forget

May 2, 2007


Sven Geier, Ph.D., whom I met randomly by choosing an image he made for my “Remembering Things” post from the other day, and asking his permission, has proved to be a wise man on top of an artist and scientist. Regarding memory he had this to offer:

“I tend to tell people that I have perfect memory; but perfection in memory is not reached when every detail is retained, but when the important things are retained and the unimportant ones dropped. The ability to forget is just as important as the ability to remember; the ability to let go as important as the ability to hold on.

“I guess I’m with your dad: memory requires resources and thus what we choose to remember says a lot about what we deem valuable.”

[Sven also made the image above. I think Sven should be nominated for the 2007 Yoda award, if there is one…]

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Brad Wood May 2, 2007 at 11:07 am

This is an interesting area. I tend to think that our capacity for retaining details is generally much greater than we assume. But I have known some quite brilliant people who strive to actively forget nonessential material, out of fear that it is crowding out more significant stuff. Keith O. Johnson, a very smart guy indeed(audio/electronics engineer, revolutionized tape duplication, made many spectacular recordings for Reference Recordings, also a composer, co-inventor of HDCD, marathon runner, etc.) got quite indignant once when I asked him if he remembered a particular transistor type when he was describing a circuit he had designed. He implied that remembering that would be at the expense of something more important.

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