Are We Forgetting How to Remember?

Our culture once depended on the memorization and recitation of long-form narratives like stories and poems. What does it mean that we are losing our capacity to recall our own culture?

Journalist Joshua Foer documents the decline and fall of the modern memory thanks to digital devices that store everything from phone numbers to mathematical formulae. "We remember facts about subjects we are interested in—football or gossip—but day-to-day memories are often devoid of meaning: dates, numbers, definitions or names. These we tend to be poor at recalling. The trick, therefore, is to transform these grey bits of data into something colourful through the use of some energetic imagination. In this way, all sorts of feats become possible."