Spaced repetition memory systems make memory a choice

Memory is normally something which happens by chance. Often, it feels a bit like the object of a helpless prayer: you might be reading a book, and think to yourself “oh boy, I’d better remember this.”

One fascinating consequence of using a Spaced repetition memory system is that they make memory a choice. Once you’ve adopted a memory practice, if you want to remember something, you can simply cause it to happen: just take a few moments to write a question about it. Over the next few weeks, you’ll encode it durably into long-term memory, and it’ll only take you a few minutes cumulatively: Spaced repetition memory systems are extremely efficient.

This radically changes one’s relationship with memory! Core practices in knowledge work are often ad-hoc, and “remembering details” is a good example of a typically ad-hoc practice. But spaced repetition memory systems are an authentic Executable strategy for remembering specific details.

They’re not as great a strategy for solving People seem to forget most of what they read, and they mostly don’t notice, since it’s quite effortful to choose the details to remember and to write effective questions for an entire text. This is where the mnemonic medium comes in: Mnemonic essays may offer detailed retention of their contents in exchange for 35-50% reading time overhead


References

Nielsen, M. (2018). Augmenting Long-term Memory. Retrieved from http://augmentingcognition.com/ltm.html

Matuschak, A., & Nielsen, M. (2019). How can we develop transformative tools for thought? Retrieved December 2, 2019, from https://numinous.productions/ttft