Posted by: Joe Kuffner | November 23, 2015

There is No Was

While reading chapter nine of The Shallows (titled “Search, Memory”), the erstwhile English major in me was reminded of a quote from Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” (He also said the much more succinct “There is no was.”)

Faulkner believed that the past was part of us and that we must live with it, though we might try desperately to move on from it.

In many ways, the internet has made Faulkner’s words both more true and more false. Seemingly everything that has ever happened, both in history and in our personal lives, is archived online. Our past is just a click away and we willingly share it – #tbt anyone?

Yet Carr also persuasively argues that the internet makes people rely less on using their brain to store information, with the implication that it changes the way our brains experience memories. Is it even possible anymore for our past to live with us in the same way it did during Faulkner’s time?

And what would Faulkner say about the potential for “downloading” our brains, potentially housing real human memories in a digital medium? To quote Faulkner: “Wonder. Go on and wonder.”

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