Tech Trained Monkey

Everyday Problem Solvers

Is the ability to use a search engine more valuable than memory itself?

Einstein still amazes me… Quite some time ago (i could not get a precise date) he said

Never memorize something that you can look up. – Einstein

and it got me thinking: Although memory increases our productivity (asking google everything is very time-consuming), is it really necessary? I know that this is a highly radical idea, but today you can easily “load” all the specific info you need to accomplish a task in a couple of minutes! How many times have you caught yourself checking google for semantics of a given programming language??? I find myself googling for LINQ semantics all the time…

There is no doubt that its extremely hard to go by a problem that has not yet been solved. Most of the already solved problems has a How To posted on a blog or something (ok, you may not find out a how to build a nuke…). The difficulty lies on finding the place where the How To is.

It’s a fact that some people know how to make better searchs in google than others. My mother for example usually query google the following: “How can I make a delicious dish using X and fresh tomatoes?”… I would query “X tomatoes recipes” instead… and probably get “better” answers. But the point here is: she doesn’t query “How can I tell that tomatoes are fresh?” or “How can I tell that the potatoes are ready?”… she memorized it already…

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that a lot of times you can’t choose what to remember what to forget, and sometimes doesn’t matter how hard you try, you just cant remember a few simple things. I’m not arguing about that, I know that if you search something over and over again is very likely that at a point you will just memorize it and there’s nothing you can do about it. I just find very odd that some people are really focused on memorizing stuff. I know a couple of doctors that actually say that if you know where to look for information and know how to cross them, a 15 old teen can diagnose almost all deceases.

If information is available and easy to find why people try so hard to memorize them? Learn how to make it more accessible instead! Maybe its a cultural thing… my mother’s, and probably yours too, education was based on memorization! Subjects as history and geography can be really tricky… Few schools notice that understanding why something happened is more important that knowing when it did! To hell with schools, very few people get it! Its like math formulas: If you don’t know when and how to use them it doesn’t matter how many you know.

Google can sure help us remember formulas in a few seconds. But he does take a lot more time to teach us how to apply and use them… if he ever manage to do so…


One response to “Is the ability to use a search engine more valuable than memory itself?

  1. Hans Burlock April 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Very nice work with the post. Many readers may view the idea that way as well and entirely agree with your idea.

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