Confessions of a Digital Hoarder

Charlie Warzel, Galaxy Brain:

I know I’m not alone. In a paper published in 2019 in the journal World Psychiatry, titled “The ‘Online Brain’: How the Internet May be Changing Our Cognition,” the researchers suggest that “the Internet is becoming a ‘supernormal stimulus’ for transactive memory — making all other options for cognitive offloading (including books, friends, and community) become redundant, as they are outcompeted by the novel capabilities for external information storage and retrieval made possible by the Internet.”

That sure sounds bad. But in reality, it’s probably good and bad. The paper suggests that “reliance on online searching may impede memory retrieval by reducing the functional connectivity and synchronization of associated brain regions.” But it also notes that this process might also free up cognitive space in other parts of our brain. At one point, the paper’s authors posit that “increasing reliance on the Internet for information may cause individuals to ‘blur the lines’ between their own capabilities and their devices.” This is likely what I’m doing by saving information for later, and mistaking that filing away for a kind of uploading into my own memory.

How curious it was for me when this appeared in NetNewsWire at about the same time as Matt Sephton tweeted about a long-forgotten app. It is one I recognize, too — it captures screenshots as you use your Mac and makes them searchable, all locally. But I searched my Pinboard, which is where I offload these sorts of things, and cannot find it.

Update: The software Sephton was looking for is probably Savant.