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Moonwalking with Einstein- The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

Book title: Moonwalking with Einstein- The Art and Science of Remembering Everything


“…the average person squanders about forty days a year compensating for things he or she has forgotten.””

” The techniques of the memory palace — also known as the journey method or the method of loci, and more broadly as the ars memorativa, or “art of memory” — were refined and codified in an extensive set of rules and instruction manuals by Romans like Cicero and Quintilian. These were the same tricks that Roman senators had used to memorize their speeches, that the Athenian statesman Themistocles had supposedly used to memorize the names of twenty thousand Athenians, and that medieval scholars had used to memorize entire books. “

“Literature, music, law, politics, science, math: Our culture is an edifice built of externalized memories. … In a sense, the elaborate system of externalized memory we’ve created is a way of fending off mortality. It allows ideas to be efficiently passed across time and space, and for one idea to build on another to a degree not possible when a thought has to be passed form brain to brain in order to be sustained.””


“The brain makes sense up close and from far away. it’s the in-between — the stuff of thought and memory, the language of the brain — that remains a profound mystery. “”

“It’s all about creating a vivid image in your mind that anchors your visual memory of the person’s face to a visual memory connected to the person’s name. this was a kind of manufactured synesthesia.


Experts see the world differently. They notice things that nonexperts don’t see.

..…our ability to process information and make decisions in world is limited by a fundamental constraint: We can only think about roughly seven things at a time.

Our working memories serve a critical role as a filter between our perception of the world and our long-term memory of it. …

Chunking is a way to decrease the number of items you have to remember by increasing the size of each item. T

In most cases, We don’t remember isolated facts; we remember things in context!!!

Expertise in “the filed of chess, shoemaking, painting, building, [or] confectionary” is the result of the same accumulation of “experiential linkings.” In other words, a great memory isn’t just a by-product of expertise; it is the essence of expertise.


Patient EP has two types of amnesia — anterograde, which means he can’t form new memories, and retrograde, which means he can’t recall old memories either, at least not since about 1950.

Without a memory, EP has fallen completely out of time. ..Without time, there would be no need for a memory. But without a memory, would there be such a thing as time? … I mean psychological time, the tempo at which we experience life’s passage. Time as a mental construct.

… Scientists generally divide memories broadly into two types: declarative and nondeclarative (sometimes referred to as explicit and implicit). Declarative memories are things you know you remember, like the color of your car, or what happened yesterday afternoon. EP and HM had lost the ability to make new declarative memories. Nondeclarative memories are the things you know unconsciously, like how to ride a bike or how to draw a shape while looking at it in a mirror (or what a word flashed rapidly across a computer screen means).

… Psychologists make a further distinction between semantic memories, or memories for facts and concepts, and episodic memories, or memories of the experiences of our own lives.

One of the many mysteries of memory is why an amnesic like EP should be able to remember when the atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima but not the much more recent fall of the Berlin Wall.

Chapter 5: THE MEMORY PALACE / “elaborative encoding.”

“The general idea with most memory techniques is to change whatever boring thing is being inputted into your memory into something that is so colorful, so exciting, and so different from anything you’ve seen before that you can’t possibly forget it. … That’s what elaborative encoding is.”. … The principle of the memory palace, is to use one’s exquisite spatial memory to structure and store information whose order comes less naturally…

Artificial memory is the software you run on your hardware. Artificial memory, the anonymous author continues, has two basic components: images and places. Images represent the contents of what one wishes to remember. Places — or loci, as they’re called in the original Latin — are where those images are stored.


… our brains, in the most reductive sense, are fundamentally prediction and planning machines. And to work efficiently, they have to find order in the chaos of possible memories. From the vast amounts of data pouring in through the senses, our brains must quickly sift out which information is likely to have some bearing on the future, attend to that, and ignore the noise. Much of the chaos that our brains filter out is words, because more often than not, the actual language that conveys an idea is just window dressing. What matters is the meaning of those words. And that’s what our brains are so good at remembering.


It was probably not until about the ninth century, around the same time that spacing became common and the catalog of punctuation marks grew richer, that the page provided enough information for silent reading to become common. … Ancient texts couldn’t be readily scanned. You couldn’t pull a scroll off the shelf and quickly find a specific excerpt unless you had some baseline familiarity with the entire text.

As books became easier and easier to consult, the imperative to hold their contents in memory became less and less relevant, … To our memory-bound predecessors, the goal of training one’s memory was not to become a “living book,” but rather a “living concordance,” a walking index of everything one had read, and all the information one had acquired. .. Today, we read books “extensively,” without much in the way of sustained focus, and, with rare exceptions, we read each book only once. …


In the 1960s, the psychologists Paul Fitts and Michael Posner attempted to answer this question by describing the three stages that anyone goes through when acquiring a new skill.

During the first phase, known as the “cognitive stage,” you’re intellectualizing the task and discovering new strategies to accomplish it more proficiently.

During the second “associative stage,” you’re concentrating less, making fewer major errors, and generally becoming more efficient. Finally you reach what Fitts called the “autonomous stage,” when you figure that you’ve gotten as good as you need to get at the task and you’re basically running on autopilot. During that autonomous stage, you lose conscious control over what you’re doing.

As a task becomes automated, the parts of the brain involved in conscious reasoning become less active and other parts of the brain take over. you could call it the “OK plateau,” the point at which you decide you’re OK with how good you are at something, turn on autopilot, and stop improving.

What separates experts from the rest of us is that they tend to engage in a very directed, highly focused routine, which Ericsson has labeled “deliberate practice.” Having studied the best of the best in many different fields, he has found that top achievers tend to follow the same general pattern of development. They develop strategies for consciously keeping out of the autonomous stage while they practice by doing three things: focusing on their technique, staying goal-oriented, and getting constant and immediate feedback on their performance. In other words, they force themselves to stay in the “cognitive phase.”

Memory is more like a collection of independent modules and systems, each relying on its own networks of neurons. … Part of the reason techniques like visual imagery and the memory palace work so well is that they enforce a degree of attention and mindfulness that is normally lacking. You can’t create an image of a word, a number, or a person’s name without dwelling on it. And you can’t dwell on something without making it more memorable.


… learning, memory, and creativity are the same fundamental process directed with a different focus. …. Creativity is the ability to form similar connections between disparate images and to create something new an hurl it into the future so it becomes a poem, or a building, or a dance, or a novel. Creativity is, in a sense, future memory. – Tony Buzan

…intelligence is much, much more than mere memory…but memory and intelligence do seem to go hand in hand, like a muscular frame and an athletic disposition. There’s a feedback loop between the two. The more tightly any new piece of information can be embedded into the web of information we already know, the more likely it is to be remembered. People who have more associations to hang their memories on are more likely to remember new things, which in turn means they will know more, and be able to learn more. the more we remember, the better we are at processing the world. And the better we are at processing the world, the more we can remember about it.

Chapter 10 and Chapter 11: THE U.S. MEMORY CHAMPIONSHIP

described how the author Joshua Foer won!

Scientists’ fMRI analysis showed that memory athletes use different regions of the brain when using memory palace techniques.

from the author’s TED talk: I think if there’s one thing that I want to leave you with, it’s what E.P., the amnesic who couldn’t even remember that he had a memory problem, left me with, which is the notion that our lives are the sum of our memories. How much are we willing to lose from our already short lives by losing ourselves in our Blackberries, our iPhones, by not paying attention to the human being across from us who is talking with us, by being so lazy that we’re not willing to process deeply? …. I learned firsthand that there are incredible memory capacities latent in all of us. But if you want to live a memorable life, you have to be the kind of person who remembers to remember.

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