As a someone who has a good memory for numbers and therefore can’t be bothered to store data in my cell phone, this article confirms my prejudices. From the UK’s Telegraph:
An over reliance on technology is leading to a dumbing down of the nation’s brain power, according a study published today.
In a society flooded with mobile phones, Blackberry devices and computers of various shapes and sizes, a quarter of all Britons do not know their own landline number while as little as a third can recall more than three birthdays of their immediate family.
The research reveals that the average citizen has to remember five passwords, five pin numbers, two number plates, three security ID numbers and three bank account numbers just to get through day to day life.
Six out of ten people claimed that they suffer from “information overload,” stating that they need to write these numbers down in order to remember them.
However, more than half of the 3000 people surveyed admitted to using the same password across all accounts, leaving them at risk of potentially severe security breaches.
Professor Ian Robertson, a neuropsychology expert based at Trinity College Dublin who carried out the study, said: “People have more to remember these days, and they are relying on technology for their memory.
“But the less you use of your memory, the poorer it becomes. This may be reflected in the survey findings which show that the over 50s who grew up committing more to memory report better performance in many areas than those under 30 who are heavily reliant on technology to act as their day to day aide memoir.”
Professor Roberston, who oversaw the research to mark the launch of Puzzler Brain Trainer Magazine, said that a series of five simple exercises a day can help to increase memory capacity.
Other results of the two month study indicated that the majority (58 per cent) of the population wrongly believes that they are incapable of remembering the myriad of numbers and codes which they use in everyday life.
As many as a third of those surveyed under the age of 30 were unable to recall their home telephone number without resorting to their mobile phones or to notes.
When it came to remembering important dates such as the birthdays of close family relatives, 87 per cent of those over the age of 50 could remember the details, compared with 40 per cent of those under the age of 30.
Men came off worse than women. Only 55 per cent of men could remember their wedding anniversary, compared to 90 per cent of women.
I “phased” on my wife’s social security number today, so I’m sympathetic to the idea that being able to have a set of data at your fingertips means that you stop trying to keep that data in or near your short-term memory.
What I’m failing to figure out is what the problem is. My car is smarter than I am (it turns off the lights and tells me when the key is still in the ignition, for instance) and that isn’t making me dumber. (Indeed, it’s saving me a bunch of time sitting around waiting for AAA.)
Being able to recite a ten-digit number called two or three times per day isn’t sharpening brain power; it’s rote recitation.
It’s as if the brain teaser crossword consisted of “four letter word for pitcher” and “school in North Carolina” and all the standards, without anything that actual forced you to think about anything.