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Memories of the 28th Century

Photography and Memory Problems

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We have known for many years that photography is related to memory deficiencies, but it has not been demonstrated whether photography is the cause of defective memory, or if it is a result of having a defective memory, specifically an attempt to fill in for a natural memory, and it is possible that it varies from case to case.

It must be a pleasant surprise to people who canít remember much that there are devices to allow them to save images of persons, things, places, and events that normal people would remember without the need of mechanical or electronic devices. In these cases it appears that photography comes after the disease of memory loss has developed.

Then there is the process that Plato suggested for writing in ďThe PhaedrusĒ, that writing would damage the ability of people to remember.
O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

I believe that Platoís fear was well-founded, but considering how much reading is done these days and by whom it is done, the readers and writers havenít lost much, if anything, and the non-readers donít have much to forget.

My experience with photography has been somewhat different. I have been acquainted with photographers who had trouble remembering anything of people or events, but who manage to remember everything about someone or something when reminded with a photograph of that person or thing. This suggests that photographs could be used to treat memory loss in some people. Certainly people with dementia are affected this way.

Since photography can be either a cause or a result of memory loss, we should look at each case to determine whether the photography preceded or followed the memory problems, and treat each case appropriately.

Real human minds do not need photographs; there is a complete record in the mind that includes all sensory inputs: fragrances, sights, sounds, and so on. If you canít access a particular memory, then the problem might be with the indexing that the brain did when the event was first remembered. It is possible to exercise the memory using various concentrations methods that are found in prana yoga and in similar Western techniques.

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  1. North Star's Avatar
    'Real human minds do not need photographs' doesn't sound quite right to my ears. Photography is not only a way to record a sight for our own use, it is also an important tool of journalism and art. And looking at a photograph is in any case very different from looking at the scene that the photograph recorded, as reality changes constantly - people move and speak, the weather changes, etc. - but a photograph captures a moment in time for us to consider for however long we wish, and to absorb every detail that our brains might have considered meaningless when looking at the actual view. A photographer would remember a great many details of the actual scene when looking at a photograph, but I would hardly think that this is alarming, it is rather proof of his visual memory. I'm also rather sure that photographers in general have a much more developed visual memory than the average person - very much like you say 'the non-readers donít have much to forget.', the non-lookers don't have much to forget.
  2. PeterL's Avatar
    Yes, if people never see something; then they will not forget what it looks like.
    Updated 07-28-2015 at 08:07 AM by PeterL
  3. North Star's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by PeterL
    Yes, if people never see something; then they will not forget what it looks like.
    Huh ?
    Updated 07-28-2015 at 06:04 PM by PeterL
  4. PeterL's Avatar
    Hoc ille est.