Does technology think for us?

Every single day we process an enormous amount of information.  A large portion of this information goes in one ear and out the other.  Only things our brain determines to be important are stored in long term memory to later be recalled.  One way of making things more important to to our brain is by taking notes.  During a lecture we either scramble to write notes by hand or frantically pound away on a keyboard to capture every key point the professors say or write on the board.  This can have negatives and positives.  Writing with pen and paper and typing are arguably both forms of technology and have their pros and cons when it comes to taking notes.  If your method of taking notes helps you understand the material and make it more relevant then your brain will do a better job at storing this information to recall later.  On the other hand if your method of note taking seams meaningless and monotonous then your brain likely won’t store or recall any of this information later.  In both cases the use of technology uses up and integrates with some of our mental capacity.

So now the question is: does technology become part or our thinking ability?

The act of taking notes that allows you to store the information is certainly a way of using your brain that you otherwise wouldn’t without these forms of technology.  It changes the way your brain stores information.  On the other hand, taking notes of things you fail to store into memory also changes the way your brain interacts.  If you’re in the mindset that you don’t need to remember a piece of information because it is in your notes it certainly is different from if you had never written it down.  In this case the notes, in a way, act as additional memory that you have access to but is separate from your mind.

Personally, I think the best method is to combine both of these approaches.  I try to use the lecture as a time to make sense of the big concept while to some extent mindlessly taking notes on things I don’t yet understand so that I can study and look them up later.  So far this approach has worked fairly well but with anything in life it has pros and cons.


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