From The New York Times:
When we meet Joshua Foer, his memory is “nothing special.” A year later, he is able to memorize the order of a shuffled deck of cards in less than two minutes and the names of 99 people he’s just met. He has also etched in his brain images of his friend urinating on Pope Benedict’s skullcap, of Rhea Perlman involved in indelicate acts with Manute Bol, and of other things most of us would try hard to forget. Let it never be claimed that there is no cost to self-improvement.
A mere millennium ago, being able to remember and recite a text verbatim was not a game or a party trick. It was an art. More than that, it was part of being cultured: a person without memory was a person without ethics or humanity. Today, memorization is limited to Shakespeare monologues and Robert Frost poems in high school. Phone numbers and friends’ birthdays are “remembered” by cellphones and computers. Indeed, much of our daily memory has been offloaded onto external devices. The advantage to this is clear: information is portable and searchable, and not taking up valuable space in our noggins. Until you lose your iPhone.