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Informasjonssamfunnet viser allerede tegn på sprekker. Ikke i maskinene, men i menneskenes hoder. De husker ikke lenger. Det hvirvler så mye informasjon gjennom våre små hoder at hukommelsestap, glemsel, er i ferd med å bli et kulturtrekk.

David Brooks har et briljant miniessay i New York Times, fullt av punchlines:

In the era of an aging population, memory is the new sex.

Test ut disse tankene på omgivelsene, og du vil garantert få tilbakemeldinger som bekrefter denne trenden. Det fantastiske med IT-samfunnet er at vi kan registrere de samme fenomenene over hele kloden, selv om det er at hukommelsen forsvinner. Hvilket paradoks, hvilken ironi på info-strømmen, alltid online og ubegrenset kunnskap: Hjernen et stort hvitt rom som er tomt.

I fremtiden er det ikke vanlig viagra men nevro-viagra som blir ettertraktet.

Journalister er blant de som er mest utsatt og som forstår minst. NRKs moderniserte Nyhetsmorgen er et skrekkens eksempel: Sendingen er nå så full av jingler at det er nesten uutholdelig. Det høres ut som P4 for noen år siden. Forstår ikke redaksjonen at folk gjerne vil få med seg innholdet og at alle støyen bare forstyrrer?

Slik er trenden over alt. Brooks innfører begrepet «mental footprint», hvordan redusere mental footprint, liksom karbon-avtrykk?

Dette er ikke bare en morsomhet. Hvorfor har vi plutselig fått en så høy andel ADHD-ungdommer i dette landet? Hvorfor er så mange unge mistilpassede? Hvilke belastninger fører informasjonsstrømmen og overfloden av tegn med seg?

They say the 21st century is going to be the Asian Century, but, of course, it’s going to be the Bad Memory Century. Already, you go to dinner parties and the middle-aged high achievers talk more about how bad their memories are than about real estate. Already, the information acceleration syndrome means that more data is coursing through everybody’s brains, but less of it actually sticks. It’s become like a badge of a frenetic, stressful life — to have forgotten what you did last Saturday night, and through all of junior high.

In the era of an aging population, memory is the new sex.

Society is now riven between the memory haves and the memory have-nots. On the one side are these colossal Proustian memory bullies who get 1,800 pages of recollection out of a mere cookie-bite. They traipse around broadcasting their conspicuous displays of recall as if quoting Auden were the Hummer of conversational one-upmanship. On the other side are those of us suffering the normal effects of time, living in the hippocampically challenged community that is one step away from leaving the stove on all day.

The dawning of the Bad Memory Century will have vast consequences for the social fabric and the international balance of power. International relations experts will notice that great powers can be defined by their national forgetting styles. Americans forget their sins. Russians forget their weaknesses. The French forget that they’ve forgotten God. And, in the Middle East, they forget everything but their resentments.

There will be new social movements and causes. The supermarket parking lots will be filled with cranky criminal gangs composed of middle-aged shoppers looking for their cars. As it becomes clear that a constant stream of blog posts and e-mails decimates the capacity for recall, people will be confronted with the modern Sophie’s choice — your BlackBerry or your mind.

Neural environmentalists will emerge from the slow foods movement, urging people to accept memory loss as a way to reduce their mental footprint. Meanwhile, mnemonic gurus will emerge offering to sell neural Viagra, but the only old memories the pills really bring back will involve trigonometry.

As in most great historical transformations, the members of the highly educated upper-middle class will express their suffering most loudly. It is especially painful when narcissists suffer memory loss because they are losing parts of the person they love most. First they lose the subjects they’ve only been pretending to understand — chaos theory, monetary policy, Don Delillo — and pretty soon their conversation is reduced to the core stories of self-heroism.

Their affection for themselves will endure through this Bad Memory Century, but their failure to retrieve will produce one of the epoch’s most notable features: shorter memoirs.


The Great Forgetting