Remember when we had to remember things?

CirceoI woke up this morning, and, as always, I looked at the clock. It displayed the correct time. That is not so astonishing, because the primary purpose of a clock is to display the correct time. But, wait, daylight saving (not “savings” — how does that even make sense?) time kicked in last night.

In years past, people would end all conversations the week before the arrival of DST with a cheerful “Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead this weekend!”, and we’d do it, usually before going to bed the night before, to ensure all the clocks in the house were accurate on the designated day.

Now my primary clocks are cable boxes, and my primary watch is my phone, so there’s no need to remember when DST starts or ends — my devices automatically update and tell me.

In fact, there’s hardly a reason to remember much of anything any more.

I used to have a friend who was the go-to guy for music answers. He was the person who could remember who had a hit with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” or “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Grows”. Other friends of mine were living repositories of trivia in such categories as movies, baseball, and history. Their services are no longer required.

Remembering has become passé. Well, maybe we should still keep our boss’s wife’s name or our home address inside our brains, but knowledge of trivia is a dying art, because — as long as we can get a cell signal (you did switch to Verizon, right?) — we have all that information available at our fingertips.

We don’t need to remember phone numbers (they’re stored in the phone), how to get anywhere (we have GPS), who sang which or acted in what or played for whom … nothing. We can simply look it up.

Albert Einstein rather famously did not know the speed of sound when he took the Edison Test. His response was that he did not bother to remember such information, because it’s readily available in books. I’d heard that story as a child, and Einstein’s explanation made sense to me, so I’ve always applied it in my life. Why bother to remember something I can look up?

That’s all well and good, but as we rapidly approach a time when we can look up just about anything, will the art of remembering simply fade away? Remembering facts was once a requirement for getting along in life, and even a claim to fame for some, but will we reach a point where remembering is derided as a waste of brainspace?

As I age, I am grateful for needing to remember less and less, and I truly believe that, with all the resources of the internet available to me, I actually know more and more. I know it was The Tokens and Edison Lighthouse who sang the songs I mentioned earlier. I know that Einstein story is from the May 18, 1921 edition of the NY Times.

But, yes, I do remember when we had to remember things. I bid those days a fond farewell.

– Steve Circeo

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