Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer: I almost forgot

Moonwalking with Einstein (Joshua Foer)Memories can be trained and using memory palaces is the ultimate technique.
In a nutshell, that’s what the book ‘Moonwalking with Einstein‘ by Joshua Foer is all about.

But of course, there is more to it:

Let’s be honest: There are some delightful weirdo’s in the memory circuit.

Consider Tony Buzan: He’s the mindmap-guy, which is rather cool since I’ve been drawing mindmap-like schemes all of my life. Thanks to him, I also now have a name for this (and I’m not so lonesome anymore).
Buzan is also a real superstar, a typical American repackaging Greek & Latin knowledge on building memory capacity and becoming rich (or at least wealthy enough) on the way.
One way or another, this also made me wonder ‘Is the US really all about innovation? Or are they also more in to clever repackaging?’. I vaguely remember Noam Chomsky – with his transformational generative grammar – partly reinventing Ferdinand de Saussure.

And what about Daniel Tammet? Is he for real? Joshua Foer certainly casts some serious doubts on him, and then halfheartedly concedes that he might be wrong on this. Hmmm. I still remember that reading his book ‘Born on a Blue Day’ made me realize my youngest son was born on Pi-day.

MwE contains a description of our cultural evolution from myths over Latin texts to current days. This reminded me quite a lot of another book I was reading at the time (‘The Shallows‘ by Nicholas Carr).
The thing to remember here is ‘Memory training also builds your character.’ If this is true, we’re losing out big time these days – my iPhone functioning as my extended memory & my GPS allowing me to forget the route I take already while I’m taking it.

It all culminates in winning the 2010 USA memory championships. He obtained the title because of hard work … and some luck as well, so he concedes.

But while contemplating all the hard work he had done in the preceding year, Joshua Foer ponders on these questions: ‘What was all this hard work good for? What is the practical use of memory training, besides remembering futile lists?’ The answer… (No, it is not 42.)

Malcolm Gladwell ought to like this book.

  • It’s well-written, an easy reader. So you’ll read it front to back in one short sprint.
  • It describes a personal experience. And we all crave authenticity…
  • It illustrates a developmental process. We accompany the author on his journey, step by step.
  • It contains some odd characters for spicing up the story about the tedious hard work of memorizing.
  • It’s a success story: He won. He really won. He won the 2010 USA memory championships.

So isn’t there anything wrong?
Maybe – as a (memory) palace – it’s just too well constructed.


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