Thinking : Memory

A dictionary Definition for memory could be as follows (Collins)

"The ability of the mind to store and recall past sensations, thoughts, knowledge etc."

Computers also have memory that performs a similar function but there is no mind involved. The definition shown could get confused with a definition for learning since the ability to store is also related to learning. Memory refers to the storage process and mechanism, which has a physical reality.

Capability can be discussed in terms of both human and machine memories. It is not until we see the effects of no memory that we realise just how much we rely on it. In one particular case, a person suffered brain damage as a result of an illness. This damage left the person totally unable to lay down new memories. Each time the person woke from sleep etc. for him, it was as though he had just regained consciousness from the illness.

This situation has persisted for years. Imagine what it must be like to be incapable of remembering anything.

Which would be considered the better memory; a large, fast computer memory or a typical human memory? There are several clear differences: A computer memory does not forget things but humans often forget things.

A computer can store images with great accuracy but it is difficult for a computer to identify a previously stored image as just like to one that is being currently viewed.

A computer can instantly remember extremely long lists of facts but humans require considerable training to match even the simplest computer feats in this area.

How much use is accurate and vast storage if recall and recognition are difficult?

Human memory seems to be highly integrated with rapid recall. For instance, recognition of faces. Will computers ever be this good?

Human memory can be very fallible, two people can have different memories about the same incident. Computer memories however, are accurate and represent a true record of what was stored.


"Your Memory: A Users Guide"

by Alan Baddeley: Peguin 1993 is an excellent book on human memory and also a good read.

There is a great variety of publications on computer memory but Artificial Intelligence, a knowledge based approach: M.W. Firebaugh. PWS-KENT. 1989 provides some relevant information within the context of machine intelligence.