Never memorise what you can learn in books

“Never memorise what you can look up in books”

Albert Einstein said “Never memorise what you can look up in books”. This is very relevant for us today in the Internet age. Whenever my teenage son asks me a question and I don’t know the answer, I generally respond by saying “Google it, Google knows everything”

In many ways we now use the Internet as an extension of our brains. If we can’t find the answer within our own memory then we can go on the internet and find the answer. In this way our brain is “connected” to the internet.

From a use of brain energy perspective, this approach makes sense. If we use our brain energy to only store the important things we need to know, then surely that is good for us? After all why waste the valuable energy our brain needs in using it for irrelevant information? 

I’ve worked with many people doing Brainwave Optimisation where they have low or displaced energy in their brains, so if they focus too much on the “wrong” or “irrelevant” things (e.g. people who worry a lot) then they are depleting their energy, or reinforcing imbalances in their brainwaves.

Neuroscientists have known for many years that neural pathways grow and are reinforced when they’re used regularly  “What fires together, wires together” is a phrase often used to explain how pathways regularly connecting and “firing” together become reinforced. This is how habits are formed and habits of thinking are entrenched. What do you think about regularly? What reoccurring thoughts (and beliefs) often pop up for you? These habitual thoughts are a result of your neural pathways firing and wiring together. In simple terms, if you want to get rid of those reoccurring thoughts (if they’re negative and don’t serve you) then create new neural connections and reinforce these new pathways by thinking different things. I appreciate this is a simplistic view but that is basically what happens in your brain. For many people this is quite difficult but “what you think about comes about” is something to bear in mind!

Our brains are adapting to the environment we are now living in, exactly as they have done throughout history! Our memory is being affected by our connection to the internet as I’ve explained. Al Gore in his new book "The Future" refers to studies that have been undertaken that show that when people are asked to remember a list of facts, and are told that those facts will be available on the internet, then they are not able to remember those facts as well as a group of people who are told that they will not be able to find those facts on the internet. These studies have been supported by reviewing a group of people who regularly use GPS and they have tended to lose their innate sense of direction over time.

Our brain (consciously or subconsciously) decides not to use energy to retain information it does not need and knows it can obtain later from an external source. The downside is if we do this too much, then our ability to memorise could be impacted. If we aren’t using the neural connections that we already have, then they will weaken and fall away through lack of use! The key is balance! Yes, use the internet as an extension of your brain where necessary to utilise your brain energy effectively, BUT make sure you continue to use the neural connections you have (those that support you, not the negative ones!) on a regular basis so that they remain strong.  

As someone once told me when I was starting out in my career, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that matters”. I interpreted that as, if I could find the information that I needed, then I would do well. Now I have Google, Wikipedia etc that has become relatively easy, but have I become lazy and remember less than I should?

Have you?

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