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Brains are not for storing


Picture this: you're trying to catch a waterfall with a tiny cup.

That's us, every day, trying to grab onto the flood of information coming at us. In today's world, we're swamped with data, opinions, and stories. Your brain is struggling in a sea of information, constantly.

But here's a thought: what if our brains aren't meant to hold onto all this data? What if they're really meant for thinking, not storing?

That's where Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) comes in.


Rewiring Our Ancient Brains

Step into the shoes of our ancestors, where every whisper of leaves and distant shadow was a matter of survival. Their brains were hardwired to cherish each snippet of information, as any missed detail could be fatal. This was an era where information was rare, and the mind was a fortress that guarded each precious piece.

Now, catapult yourself into the present day – an age where information is not just plentiful, it's overwhelming. Yet, our brains are still playing by the old rules, treating every email ding and social media ping as a survival alert. It's an evolutionary mismatch that leaves us swamped in a sea of digital noise. How do we adjust our ancient wiring to thrive in this new era of information overload?


Understanding How Our Brains Work

1. Brain Info Processing

Our brain is great at dealing with information, but it's got a limit. Think of it like a small basket - it can only hold so much at once. We can handle a few things at a time, but try to cram in too much, and stuff starts falling out.

Brain is constrained by the limitations of working memory, which can only hold about 7-9 items for 15-30 seconds. This limitation makes multitasking and information retention challenging, rendering our brains less effective in storing information over the long term.

2. Types of Memory

Our memory system comprises different types: the sensory, short-term, and long-term memory. One that catches immediate stuff, one for short-term holding, and one for the long haul. But these aren't perfect. Each plays a role in how we perceive, process, and store information. Sometimes things get mixed up or lost, showing that our brains can't be relied on to store everything.

3. Remembering and Forgetting

Encoding and retrieval are critical processes in memory formation.

While we can train our brains to enhance these functions, the sheer volume of information in our digital world overloads these processes. This overload makes it clear that our brains, while exceptional in many ways, are not designed for the vast storage of information.

It's like trying to remember every word of a song while another one plays in the background. Training can help, but it's not enough when there's just too much to remember.


Why We Can't Store It All

1. Our Brain's Evolution

From way back, our brains were built to react and think on the spot, not to keep a massive library of facts. With the crazy amount of information we face now, our brains get overwhelmed. They weren't made for this kind of heavy-duty storage.

This mismatch between our evolutionary design and modern demands highlights the need for external systems to manage information.

2. Cognitive Load Theory

Cognitive Load Theory explains how information overload taxes our brain's executive functions.

This is a fancy way of saying that when we try to think about too many things at once, our brains get overloaded. It's like trying to juggle too many balls – some are bound to drop. Our brains just can't handle the pressure of today's info flood.

It categorizes cognitive load into intrinsic (related to the complexity of the information), extraneous (how information is presented), and germane (effort put into learning).

This theory illustrates why our brains cannot efficiently handle the modern deluge of information and need external support for effective processing.


Embracing External Systems

1. Personal Knowledge Management (PKM)

Since our brains can't hold onto everything, we need tools and systems to keep track of all that information. PKM is like having an external hard drive for our brains. It keeps everything organized and ready to use when we need it.

PKM emerges as a necessary solution to our cognitive limits. By organizing, managing, and retrieving information outside our brains. These systems not only support memory but also enhance our ability to access and use information when needed.

2. Tech and AI in PKM

Technology and AI are like superheroes for our brains. They take on the heavy lifting of storing and sorting information, letting our brains do what they're best at: being creative and coming up with ideas.

If set up correctly, AI can complement our brain's processing capabilities by handling the storage, organization, and retrieval of information. AI-driven data sorting, linking and fast retrieval enable us to focus on creativity and idea generation, the areas where our brains truly excel.


In summary, our brains are optimized for processing and generating ideas, not for storing the vast amounts of information we encounter daily.

The limitations of our memory systems, highlighted by Cognitive Load Theory, necessitate the use of Personal Knowledge Management. Simply, we need PKM to handle the overflow of information.

By using these tools, we can focus on what our brains do best, making sense of the world and coming up with brilliant ideas, without drowning in the data sea.


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