I am an old fogey. And I forget a lot. Old fogeys forget a lot.  3

Young people also forget a lot, but that is a different thing, or so people think— wrongly, neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin tells us in The New York Times. It is just that people put a different spin on old fogeys' forgetting and the forgetting of, say, 20-year-olds.  4

You may find the article here. The headline reads "Everyone Knows Memory Fails as You Age, But Everyone is Wrong." It is followed by a kickerhead, "Even 20-year-olds forget the simplest things." Yes, I know, the head and the kicker contradict one another.  5

The relevant difference between the forgetting of old fogeys and 20-year-olds is, quoting, "not age but rather how we describe these events, the stories we tell ourselves about them. Twenty-year-olds don't think, 'Oh dear, this must be early-onset Alzheimer's.' They think, 'I've got a lot on my plate right now' or 'I really need to get more than four hours of sleep.' The 70-year-old observes these same events and worries about her brain health."  6

We must remember this!  7

I also remember Sam, the pianist. Fine actor. Why is he not on the poster? Black man? The poster was designed in 1942 or 1943. Just wondering. 9

I also had a look at Dr. Levitin's CV. Wow! Incredible! Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; three academic appointments, simultaneously. His article was reprinted under a different headline: "Memory need not fail us." Quoting some more:  10

"Short-term memory is easily disturbed or disrupted. It depends on your actively paying attention to the items that are in the 'next thing to do' file in your mind. You do this by thinking about them, perhaps repeating them over and over again (I'm going to the closet to get gloves). But any distraction—a new thought, someone asking you a question, the telephone ringing—can disrupt short-term memory. Our ability to automatically restore the contents of the short-term memory declines slightly with every decade after 30."  11

That's where myelin appears to enter the picture. Myelin is a substance around our nerve cell axons that increases the speed of our thinking. It undergoes various changes with age, the overall effect being a slowing of our thinking. Besides, there is so much more memory for the brain to search. All in al, it will take old fogeys longer to recall what their long-term memory has in store.  12

Dr. Levitin: "Some aspects of memory actually get better as we age. For instance, our ability to extract patterns, regularities and to make accurate predictions improves over time because we’ve had more experience."  13

The lesson? Younger people may profit handsomely by giving old fogeys a bit more time. I am reminded of an item in Poor Richard's Almanack about this fine Indian tradition:  14

"Having frequent occasions to hold public councils, they have acquired great order and decency in conducting them..., He that would speak rises. The rest observed a profound silence. When he has finished and sits down, they leave him five or six minutes to recollect, that, if he omitted anything he intended to say, or has any to add, he may rise again and deliver it. To interrupt another, even in common conversation, is reckoned highly indecent. How different this is from the conduct of a polite British House of Commons, where scarce a day passes without some confusion, that makes the speaker hoars in calling to order; and how different from the mode of conversation in many polite companies of Europe, where, if you do not deliver your sentence with great rapidity, you are cut of in the middle of it by the impatient loquacity of those you converse with, and never suffered to finish it."  15

Benjamin Franklin's Almanack became the second most popular book (after the Bible) in 18th-century American homes. Wrote he in 1747, in the preface of the 15th edition: "If I now and then insert a Joke or two, that seem to have little in them, my Apology is, that such may have their Use, since perhaps for their Sake light airy Minds peruse the rest and so are struck by somewhat of more Weight and Moment. The verses on the Heads of the Months are also generally designed to have the same Tendency. I need not tell you that many of them are not of my own Making. If Thou has any Judgment in Poetry, thou wilt easily discern the Workman from the Bungler.... Why then should I give my Readers bad Lines of my own, when good Ones by other People's are so plenty!"  17

I could have. I should have! I could have realized it from my own experiences. Such as waking up from an afternoon snooze wondering why the room is so bright. Until I realize this is not early morning. But I didn't think of digital signals finding their way through our brains to then be studied by the mind's interpreter. Like in the army: troops are called to line up—"servi in ordines longos se instruxerunt" popped into my head—to then be inspected by a lieutenant who checks their buttons, shoes, rifle, whatever, before presenting them to his commanding officer.  18

Or like this jigsaw. First, I rapidly organized the pieces in some heaps: edge pieces, pieces with yellow in them, then from what is left pieces with brown in them, etc. Then I tried to fit them together with a little help from my insight about their graphic contents, and so on. This, to me, is so overwhelmingly spellbinding that I couldn't fully grasp the whole until all the pieces were in place. "Spellbinding," what a funny word. Where did it come from? Ah, "to bind by or as if by spell," 1808; from Online Etymology Dictionary. Makes sense.  20

Got it for $1.75; recycled.  21

And, oh yeah, "the mind's interpreter"—a few paragraphs back. Wikipedia to the rescue: "The left-brain interpreter is a neuropsychological concept developed by the psychologist Michael S. Gazzaniga and the neuroscientist Joseph E. LeDoux. It refers to the construction of explanations by the left brain hemisphere in order to make sense of the world by reconciling new information with what was known before. The left-brain interpreter attempts to rationalize, reason and generalize new information it receives in order to relate the past to the present."  22

All of which reminds me of constructivism, a modern theory of knowledge. Modern it was, some 35 years ago: "The idea that knowledge is constructed in the mind of the learner on the basis of preexisting cognitive structures or schemes provides a theoretical basis for Ausubel's distinction between meaningful and rote learning.... 'To learn meaningfully, individuals must choose to relate their knowledge to relevant concepts and propositions they already know. In rote learning ... new knowledge may be acquired simply by verbatim memorization and arbitrarily incorporated into a person's knoledge structure without interacting with what is already there.'" I mentioned this before, in 1990.  23

It also reminds me of Fisher's paradigm:

      "What we think, we do.
      What we do, we become."

This too I mentioned
before  24

And let me not overlook Franklin Benjamin's "To-day is Yesterday's Pupil" even though he himself overlooked an ancient Latin sententia that translates as "Today is the pupil of yesterday." That came from the writer Publilius Syrus, birthday unknown but active 85–43 BC. Sententiae are brief moral sayings, such as proverbs, adages, aphorisms, maxims, or apophthegms.  25

Time has come now to be doubly cognizant of another piece of Franklin's wisdom: "As we must account for every idle word, so we must for every idle silence."  26

And so, let silence be.  27

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