Memory Retrieval

Episode #735

March 4, 2023

Everyone has their own way of remembering.
The older we get, the longer recall takes.
In part this is because there is more memory to sift through.
Also, older brains are less efficient than younger ones.

Young people typically don’t have to wait to remember something. The memory simply occurs to them without effort. It is like a movie clip that spontaneously plays back in the rememberer’s head. Like short term memory, the long term memory of youth is available instantly. Their pile of memories is not deep. There is little time during retrieval to contemplate what is being recalled and so impulsive conversational responses can be frequent.

As they age some people use the “walking in the mall” method of memory retrieval. Like the directory in the mall, memories are stored in store front categories. Their mind walks down the concourse until an appropriate category appears, then they enter to find the desired memory in the racks and aisles within.

Others use the “stack of file cabinets” method. They look up a towering stack of cabinets labeled with the current year at the bottom and the oldest year at the top. When the correct year is identified, they open the cabinet drawer and riffle though the file folders until the memory they seek is found. Some people organize the file drawer date>event>detail. Others organize category>event>detail. Everyone files differently.

Those with the clearest of longterm memory seem to grab an event randomly like a mysterious Google algorithm. Their mechanism is an AI tree of yes/no, true/false model-weight questions that lead to the most probable memories.

I am notorious for pausing in the middle of a sentence. Give me a couple seconds and I will continue. I just need those seconds for retrieval time. I see my memory as a funnel. Around the top of the rim are the short term memories, easily accessed. The deeper down the funnel I go, the older the memories get. At the bottom of the funnel is my oldest recallable memory: 
I am lying on my back looking up through a skylight. There are the branches of a tree waving back and forth in front of a clear blue sky. 

Whenever I want I can drop to the bottom of the funnel and remember that tree, wind and sky.

When seeking a memory I spiral down the funnel. I feel I am falling around the interior of a cyclone of memory snapshots. When the relevant memory appears I retrieve the image and return to the present. This could include video, scent or the memory of a touch. It gives me the context for a reply, but it might be a few seconds until I return from the funnel.

While we each use a different method of memory retrieval this process creates the future.

History is the accumulation of memory. The present is where we live. The future is created when our imaginations combine our memories with the present moment.


“Skydivers Know Why Birds Sing” by Ricki T Thues is now available on Amazon.
It is a Love story of Rick and Paula Thues and their 35 years of Skydiving.

Click HERE to buy the paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.

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“Technically Human” by Ricki T Thues, the iMentor, is available on Amazon.
It is a compilation of selected episodes from this bLog which tell the story of Humanity through the eyes of the iMentor.

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  1. Victor Spindler March 3, 2023
    • Rick Thues March 3, 2023
  2. Maria Doyle March 3, 2023

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