Sunday, February 18, 2024

It reminds me of... (cognitive processes)

When I get into a writing routine, even if what I am writing are insignificant notes and random blog posts, I become more aware of the cognitive processes involved. It's almost as if the brain is breathing in and out, expanding to seek out and acquire ideas, and then contracting to synthesize, clarify, and transform into a series of words. In the last couple of days, I have become particularly aware of instances when something I read or a thought related to what I am reading will remind me of something either quite distant or immediately feel connected to a very recent event or activity.

Here are two examples to illustrate:

Yesterday, as I was writing the blog post about "Mindset is everything", I was reminded of a book I read decades ago and haven't opened since.  Today, as I read a blog post online about digital hygiene, it immediately connected with the book I started reading yesterday, Your Time To Thrive, by Marina Khidekel.  I happened to be reading the chapter on unplugging from digital gadgets.  

In the first example, there is something happening in the brain that makes a connection to a deeply buried memory.  The initial connection is a connection to the idea, the main argument of the book. Then I remember the book that makes that argument (I am not super confident that my recollection of the sequence of thoughts is accurate just like I know memory is fallible). I had absolutely no recollection of the author's name or what the cover of the book looked like.  In fact, I did not recollect the book's title correctly.  

In the second example, it is likely that having started Your Time to Thrive and having just completed the chapter on unplugging, my mind was attracted to a blog post on digital hygiene which I might have completely bypassed a week ago. Trying to retrace my steps, or more precisely my thoughts, it seems I scanned through the blog post precisely to see if it was related to what I had just read about unplugging.  I determined that it was related but adjacent, complementary, not addressing the topic from the same angle, which was interesting in itself.  

It may sound paradoxical, but in the era of rapidly advancing AI, I have a feeling  (Is it a feeling or an insight?) that understanding our own human brains will become more important than ever.  I don't mean that we all need to become neuroscientists but rather that critical thinking skills and learning how we learn and how we think and process information will become ever more important because of the rapid changes in our access to tools that can accelerate and augment our own cognitive capabilities.  

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