Sunday, February 12, 2012

Endless memory

One of my favorite short stories has long been Borges' Funes el
memorioso (Funes the Memorious, 1942), about a man who, as the
Wikipedia reminds me (because I forget things), is incapable of
Platonic ideas, of generalities, of abstraction and whose world is one
of intolerably uncountable details. Funes finds it very difficult to
sleep, because he remembers "every crevice and every moulding of the
various houses which [surround] him."

Now I learn that Borges was wrong. It turns out that people with
"superior autobiographical memory" are very much capable of the human
capacity for abstraction. The uncountable details of their lives are
not intolerable. Other than remembering everything, or just about
everything that ever happened to them, they are perfectly ordinary
people. Here's a 60 Minutes piece on such people:

Part 1:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2zTkBgHNsWM

Part 2:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1th1fVIc8Vo&feature=relmfu