We often curse our memory for its frailty. We go to a party and meet someone only to forget their name seconds later. We navigate to a destination only to have no memory of how we managed to pilot ourselves there. We think we said something when in reality, we said something else.
Arguably, forgetting serves us as a kind of filter by allowing us to discard information that would otherwise function simply as clutter. In the era of social media and the internet, when learning is almost passive and both critical and useless information is coming at us from all directions, is there an advantage to forgetting?
The seat of our imagination is unlimited; but is our understanding of it finite?
President Obama’s BRAIN (Brain Research through Advanced Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, a $100 million dollar project aimed at helping understand the precise mechanics of how memory works within the brain, may eventually help Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients regain their memory. While no one doubts that this is vital research, the way memory, and the lack thereof, shapes our day-to-day lives is a field that has prompted a great deal of study. The way we use our minds, not only as basic tools, but as the seat of our creativity and thoughtfulness, is a topic that fascinates us all yet is poorly understood. How do we map such a complex and constantly changing entity? What is the function of memory, and what is the function of forgetting? Is there room for personal growth if you can’t forget?
In June, we will explore the various ways in which we conceive of our minds, and the ways in which neuroscientists, academics, artists and others approach this incredibly powerful yet mysterious organ.
Stay tuned… and keep your mind wide open!