Friday, January 18, 2008

Total Recall

I was eating breakfast one morning this week and heard on the TV that, after the commercial break, "Good Morning America" would have a story about a man known as the Human Google. Having to leave for work before the story came on, I didn't get to hear Chris Cuomo's interview, but the story is on GMA's website.

It seems that Brad Williams, 51, a drive-time radio news broadcaster from Wisconsin, can remember the details of everything he's ever done or experienced or heard or seen. He has almost total recall of everything in his life, including grade school report cards and family vacations. Williams has a condition, or a gift, if you will, called hyperthymesia, or superior memory syndrome. Scientists know very little about it, and Williams' brain scans are being studied to see what clues they yield about human memory and how we keep or lose it.

My first thought was, "Wow! Sign me up!" But on second thought, I'm not sure hyperthymesia would be good for a reference librarian to have. Everyone's questions--and the answers--would be permanently etched on my brain. While we do retain some of what we learn in the search for information, the older we get, the less time all that trivia is likely to stick to our brain cells. I think I've reached the point that, in order to remember something new, I need to forget something else. Do our brains have a finite capacity for remembering? Does Mr. Williams'?

Anyway, I am a little miffed that Mr. Williams is referring to himself as the Human Google, as if the ubiquitous search engine is the repository of all knowledge. Why couldn't he call himself the Human Library? Doesn't that have a nice ring to it?


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