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Burdening the memory can suppress thinking.

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

When I was studying engineering at MIT (Manipal), I came across a rather strange man who had a phenomenal memory particularly for numbers.

I met him first in 1982 at the hostel where his room was next to mine. He regaled all and sundry with his amazing memory. He was particularly adept at remembering figures and incidents. He could remember numbers running into thousands of characters. He had an extremely vast collection of jokes and an encyclopedia on facts and figures for every major cricket match that had been played in the previous decade.

We met and interacted only occasionally, but his room mate Allan who had been his roommate for a year became my room mate for the next 2 years. Through Allan I learnt a lot about the spectacular capabilities of memory and his failure in academics.

He would score only in single digits out of 100 marks in every subject in college. As a result he gave up on engineering after 3 years and moved on to other things.

Allan told me that Mahadevan had a stint with a Tata research where they examined his phenomenal mind and discovered that the memory part of his brain was more than 10 times the size of a normal human being, but other parts of his brain were somewhat smaller than most human beings.

Mahadevan a nice and witty chap, went on to get his Master's degree in Clinical Psychology and currently serves as distinguished lecturer at the University of Tennessee, where he teaches courses in learning and thinking as well as cognitive psychology.

He is listed in the Guinness book of world records for his memory powers and has received much media and academic interest.

The idea of sharing this is to substantiate my theory that when we inflate our memory filling it with data, trivia, gossip and mostly useless stuff it tends to suppress our ability to absorb, think, analyse, and apply human intelligence. In a sense we get dumbed down.


Rajan Mahadevan - Wikipedia

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