Tuesday, August 18, 2020

we remember less taking in life through the damn zoom screen

The Covid-19 lockdown, after all, was full of new experiences. Some were grim: I lost a friend to the disease; I smashed my face up in an accident; we had to wear masks and avoid physical contact and worry about where the next roll of toilet paper was coming from. Some were more positive: the discovery of new pleasures, the honing of new skills, the overcoming of new challenges.

But I doubt I am alone in finding that my memory of the lockdown months is rather thin. No matter how many new people or old friends you talk to on Zoom or Skype, they all start to smear together because the physical context is monotonous: the conversations take place while one sits in the same chair, in the same room, staring at the same computer screen.

The psychologist Barbara Tversky, author of Mind in Motion, argues that our minds are built on a foundation of cognition about place, space and movement. That creeps into our language with phrases such as "built on a foundation" and "creeps into". Our brains started by helping us process our surroundings and the threats and opportunities they presented. Abstract thinking is an adaptation of those basic spatial capacities.

Tim Harford on how  We won't remember much of what we did in the pandemic.

A few thoughts: one is thinking about how I have already been oddly obsessed with daily notes - aiming for a daily blog entry (which I try to make less about me and more about stuff I find), a "mundane" journal entry, and for 7 or 8 years now a "One Second Everyday" video snippet. I guess I dislike that feeling of lost time.

The other is a tangent - I think the ambient details of surroundings is one of the reasons why RSS and other tools to retrieve "pure" content but with the same visual context each time never worked for me- the visual details surrounding an article give it a flavor that helps it land in my mind.

Finally - I wonder if there's a lesson in artificial intelligence like this. Tversky writes about how the human path to thinking about the world so often depends on the physicality of it all, of being an actor in a space and learning the principles of cause and effect (with ever present considerations like gravity and mass and texture) I read her book last year and actually corresponded briefly with her, very good stuff.

No comments:

Post a Comment