A fascinating article I found after digging through Conor Friedersdorf’s best of journalism.

What distinguishes a great mnemonist, I learned, is the ability to create lavish images on the fly, to paint in the mind a scene so unlike any other it cannot be forgotten. And to do it quickly. Many competitive mnemonists argue that their skills are less a feat of memory than of creativity. For example, one of the most popular techniques used to memorize playing cards involves associating every card with an image of a celebrity performing some sort of a ludicrous — and therefore memorable — action on a mundane object. When it comes time to remember the order of a series of cards, those memorized images are shuffled and recombined to form new and unforgettable scenes in the mind’s eye. Using this technique, Ed Cooke showed me how an entire deck can be quickly transformed into a comically surreal, and unforgettable, memory palace.

The author documents his training as a mental athlete and his US record breaking performance memorizing a deck of cards in 1 minute 40 seconds.  I personally have a terrible memory, especially for names, but I don’t think this kind of active memorization is especially productive.  The kind of memory enhancement we could all benefit from is the ability to call up more and more ideas/thoughts/experiences related to whatever is currently going on.  We need more fluid relational memory, RAM not so much.

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