Using the internet as an extension of our brains has negatives as well as positives.
The internet is stealing your memory. That’s the conclusion from a study by Kaspersky Lab, showing 90% of Americans surveyed reckon “they use the internet as an online extension of their brain”. A range of research suggests “we’re replacing the ability to recall specifics with the certainty that we have them stored somewhere or can look them up online later”, notes Andrea Peterson in the Washington Post. “A sort of digital amnesia.” The delegation of memory to technology is “not necessarily a bad thing – maybe it gives us more mental processing power to think through things,” she writes. “And we certainly have access to more knowledge now than ever, even if it’s not all stored in our brains.”
The risk, however, is that significant, personal memories “might be harder to recall or find online. And if you’re relying on your own archive of pictures or documents to keep track of those memories, the consequences of a lost, stolen or hacked hard drive are much more meaningful.”
The unforgettable moment in American political discourse of recent days, meanwhile, centres on peas. It began with a tweet from the New York Times, enthusing, “Add green peas to your guacamole. Trust us.” Social media gasped, and so did the President. Barack Obama tweeted: “respect the nyt, but not buying peas in guac. onions, garlic, hot peppers. classic.” The reproof traversed party lines. Presidential hopeful and former Florida governor Jeb Bush tweeted, flatly, “You don’t put peas in guacamole.”
At Mother Jones magazine, however, Tim Murphy voiced concern at Obama’s “anti-pea polemic”, which “puts him at odds with an important group of Americans – the Founding Fathers”. Peas, apparently, were Thomas Jefferson’s favourite vegetable. “He cultivated 19 different kinds of peas in the Monticello vegetable garden.” He even held an annual contest with his neighbour “to see whose peas would sprout first”. George Washington, for his part, “loved peas so much that when a bunch [of] Tories attempted to kill him, they did so by poisoning a dish of his favourite food – peas”. Murphy felt sure that had avocados “been around when they were president, they would have made pea guacamole”.
bit.ly/NZLpeas; bit.ly/NZLpotuspea; bit.ly/NZLjebpea; bit.ly/NZLthinkpeas
To thine own self be true. Live each day like it’s your last. If you want something done right, do it yourself. These are just some of the memorable aphorisms that offer “terrible counsel”, sighs Johnson, the Economist’s language blog. And they’d be even more seductive if they rhymed. “The brain craves ideas that can be understood and remembered without effort.” That is the conclusion, at least, of an academic paper tellingly titled, “Birds of a feather flock conjointly: rhyme as reason in aphorisms”.
This tendency may even have helped murder accused OJ Simpson, whose lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, focused on a bloody glove found at the crime scene that barely squeezed on the defendant’s hand. “Cochran told the jury, in the trial’s most famous moment, ‘If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.’ They did. But the sceptical reader might want to commit this dictum to memory: ‘If too tight the rhetorical fit, beware the stench of manure.’”
Everyone needs a hobby. And for the Netherlands-based Americans Ding Ren and Michael Karabinos it just happens to be collecting images of sheep spotted on Google Street View, the tool that archives street-level images from around the world. The strangely addictive Google Sheep View was started, they explain, “because it is the year of the sheep” and because “we enjoy the ‘sheep view’ while riding trains”. Why sheep rather than another animal? Such a question, Ren tells Newsweek, is “like asking [Japanese artist] Yayoi Kusama why polka dots instead of squares or triangles … We’ve gotten questions about why not alpacas, why not goats, why not cows? And the answer is, why can’t it just be sheep?”
New Zealand sheep feature, you’ll be relieved to hear, most recently in the form of a flock being moved along a Hawke’s Bay country road. No sign, however, of any of our ewes in Saudi Arabia.
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