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February 7, 2014

A World of Empty Heads

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

Once upon a time, I had about two dozen phone numbers memorized. I knew the birthdays for just about every family member. I could keep a week’s worth of appointments, as well as upcoming due dates, right in my head. I even had trivial facts memorized and could recite poetry or explain important dates. Today, my tablet knows all that stuff.

As the author of numerous books on smartphones and tablets, I occasionally write about how useful they can be at helping you remember things.

For example, when you were a kid, you probably memorized key phone numbers in your life. In fact, I remember when I was dating in my 20s how I’d commit my girlfriends’ phone numbers to memory. Yet I seriously doubt anyone today bothers to memorize such things.

That begs the question of whether it’s good to free space in your head from having to memorize some things. For example, I don’t have my kids’ phone numbers memorized. Yet that concerns me because I wouldn’t know how to get a hold of them should I have to phone from a land line somewhere or use someone else’s cell phone. There’s a concern.

Yet, consider the other things our digital devices do for use. How much information do we need to keep in our heads today versus yesterday? And what are we using all that extra room for?

To be more specific: Are our mobile digital devices making us stupid?

It’s a tremendous crutch we lean on. For example, most people no longer buy technology references, i.e., computer books. I can’t even find a printed C language library reference. So when the Internet goes down while I’m coding and I need to look up some specific function, I’m stuck.

As we rely more and more on that Internet connection for what human beings traditionally memorized, I believe we become weak as a society. In fact, we become damn pathetic.

No one is immune to this 21st century disease. Even experts rely upon their phones and tablets to instantly look up what at one time would be considered common knowledge. Given that truth, what point do schools have in teaching history, dates, names, and numbers?

It’s frightening to me. One month without the Internet would be devastating to our culture. Society may not collapse, but it might take an event like that for us to realize that we’ve become a world of empty heads.


  1. Wow you don’t even have a dog eared soaked and dryied out copy of K&R, every C programmer has a ‘a dog eared soaked and dryied out’ K&R, Well that said mine started to fall apart so I bought a new copy & downloaded an E-book and use the E-book more!

    Comment by glennp — February 8, 2014 @ 7:56 am

  2. Oh, yes I have the K&R. It doesn’t have the library reference, which I actually have in another book, but it’s a much older copy of the library and specific to TurboC. That shows you how long it’s been since I’ve picked up a reference. My K&R, shown below, is copyright 1979. Obviously, I do use it! 🙂

    Comment by admin — February 8, 2014 @ 9:02 am

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