Quick, what’s your sister’s phone num­ber? The address of your favorite restau­rant? The name of the florist down the street? If you’ve got that info stored on your phone or com­puter but not com­mit­ted to grey mat­ter mem­ory, wel­come to the era of the dig­i­tal dyad, your two-dimensional part­ner in remem­ber­ing impor­tant things.

Trans­ac­tive Memory

Before we could sum­mon Siri or go to Google, we sim­ply made an effort to remem­ber things. When that failed, we went to our inner cir­cle of friends, fam­ily, and cowork­ers to help us recall details like birth­days, events, and sta­tis­tics. That trans­ac­tive mem­ory, employ­ing the brains of con­nected peo­ple, is sort of like a three-dimensional, real-life Google search.

Not Mem­ory Loss, But Mem­ory Change

Some con­cern over the inabil­ity to remem­ber things, like the birth­day list or cer­tain phone num­bers, exists. Rather than notch­ing it as a mark in the loss col­umn, I agree with the late Daniel Wegner’s stu­dent, Betsy Spar­row, that it is sim­ply a switch from a people-oriented search to an online search. What’s even bet­ter, mak­ing this not just a plus, but five-star stuff, is that a vir­tual search often comes back with a wealth of infor­ma­tion sup­port­ing the answer to your ques­tion. While a human 3D query often deliv­ers the answer you seek, it’s usu­ally just that. Ask Siri the same ques­tion and you’re likely to get three or four addi­tional sup­port­ing facts.

Cau­tion­ary Tale

The dan­ger in rely­ing on online responses hov­ers around know­ing your source. When you phys­i­cally per­form a human Google search, you are likely to know the individual’s strengths and weak­nesses. Ask­ing your stock bro­ker friend a ques­tion about nutri­tion might not give you opti­mum results, but you know ahead of time what you’re deal­ing with. You know the person’s thought processes and back­ground, and thus how much weight to give the answer. When you do an online Google search, the algo­rithm secrets and hid­den agen­das can deliver answers that are less than impar­tial. Just as you assess the value of a 3D response, know­ing and under­stand­ing online resource back­grounds is important.

Where Did I Put That?

Know­ing where to look to find unbi­ased, reli­able infor­ma­tion is a dynamic, con­tin­u­ous job. Good researchers main­tain a cur­rent, dili­gent, and flex­i­ble approach with both 2D and 3D sources, with an under­stand­ing of how things work in the vir­tual world. A Google search is only as good as the per­son per­form­ing it. Research brains now employ the sig­nif­i­cant amount of mem­ory once ded­i­cated to dates, phone num­bers, and sta­tis­tics to remem­ber­ing where to look for answers to impor­tant questions.

Smit­ten With “Her”

Another inter­est­ing notion about using our sleek dig­i­tal devices in place of 3D friends is that many peo­ple begin to respond to vir­tual per­son­al­i­ties like they are peo­ple. We are psy­cho­log­i­cally attracted to elec­tronic char­ac­ters that are smart, witty, and always there for us, espe­cially when they have a pleas­ant voice. It’s impor­tant to bal­ance our 2D and 3D worlds with time in each, lest either become dominant.

Aha Moments and Bet­ter Mousetraps

We are not los­ing mem­ory to our devices. We are sim­ply chang­ing the way we approach recall, includ­ing a vir­tual friend in our inner cir­cle. That friend often pro­vides quicker, more thor­ough answers to our ques­tions. As long as we remem­ber how impor­tant it is to build a strong knowl­edge base in our 3D brains, with ready use of math, sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, and his­tory, our use of 2D resources will con­tinue to help us achieve break­through dis­cov­er­ies that con­tribute to higher IQs and more intel­li­gent humans.