Moonwalking with Einstein

Joshua Foer wrote a great book about memory. Moonwalking with Einstein talks about the (almost forgotten) art and science of remembering. Part of the story is about the way to improve your memory and easily remember vast amounts of data. The method for that goes back to Rhetorica Ad Herennium. We don’t know who the author was who created the original text between 86 and 82 B.C.. The fact that some attribute the text to Marcus Tullius Cicero says something about it’s popularity. Obviously in these ancient days the need for memory skills was much higher than today. Then the human brain was the best place to store information. This was applicable until Gutenberg did his invention in the late Middle Ages. By studying this methodology and practicing a couple of hours a day, Joshua won the US Memory Championships after one year.

Why remember anything in this internet age?

The book has also an important message about the way we use our brain in this day and age where all the information is readily available at our fingertips. A world where Google became a verb and any fact is only a mouse-click away. With examples on musicians and chicken-sorters, the author shows that accomplishing real insight requires relevant information stored in the old-fashioned way. Luckily the book provides the recipe on how to do that as well.

His US Memory Championship title earned Joshua Foer the right to compete in the world championships as well. Several Brits and Scandinavians beat him there as apparently this game is dominated by the Europeans. It is very well possible that you recognize the approach. The ‘mind palace’ that Benedict Cumberbatch shows when playing in the BBC series Sherlock Holmes uses the same classic approach.