OT: losing memories (was Re: How many of you are Extreme Programmers?)

Dave Benjamin ramen at lackingtalent.com
Fri Apr 25 23:42:25 CEST 2003


In article <3EA80827.6277D27C at engcorp.com>, Peter Hansen wrote:
> Dave Benjamin wrote:
>> Well, I think Dijkstra's basic point was that you can't really "unlearn"
>> anything. You can ignore what you've learned, but it's still there. Once
>> you've learned some BASIC, it's a part of your brain, and that imprint will
>> remain there FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. But it's okay, it hasn't stopped me
>> either. Maybe someday we'll start a therapy group.
> 
> After having spent the last few months getting on average something like 
> five hours of sleep (my need is for more like 7.5 or 8), I'd have to say
> I'm a living rebuttal to your argument.  I have completely forgotten a
> variety of interesting things which I used to know.  More than that, I've
> forgotten *that* I used to know these things, and am going on the say-so
> of others whose memories are more intact.  And I strongly doubt I will 
> ever recover those memories, or even the memory of the memories.

Hehe... well, first of all, it's not necessarily my argument, but
Dijkstra's, or at least my rough approximation thereof. But I tend to agree
with Dijkstra on this one, so I'll let you argue with me anyway. ;)

Speaking as one who experiences memory loss for various reasons, I will
admit that there are certain memories which I can't seem to conjour up, even
though I have "learned" them in the past. However, that doesn't mean they're
gone. Perhaps they just weren't indexed properly. I have yet to learn how to
do a linear scan on my brain (anyone have a code snippet for that?)

Anyway, even if the *memory* is gone, the *effect* of learning is still a
part of us. What we know today is the direct result of a chain of causes and
effects which we'll never be able to retrace.

> I think if pathways in the brain can be built up, through repetition of
> stimuli, dreaming, etc., then they can likewise be dissolved, whether
> through drug use, pyschological problems or chemical imbalances caused 
> by lack of sleep, and so on.  Perhaps simple disuse leads only to an
> asymptotic decay which never quite reaches zero, as your argument might
> suggest, but I think other processes could act in different ways.

You might be right, but if I'm still suffering from BASIC when I'm 80, I
think I ought to be able to sue someone. =)

Peace,
Dave




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