Forgetting (Book Review)
For most people, forgetting is a cause of anxiety. But forgetting is the brain’s routine for optimizing storage, consolidating thoughts, and building room for new ideas.
I’ve long been interested in neuroscience, especially the parts dealing with mind optimization and longevity. I experiment with numerous bio hacks to optimize my brain for better decisions and equanimity, and hopefully delay senility as I age.
For most people, forgetting is a cause of anxiety. But forgetting is the brain’s routine for optimizing storage, consolidating thoughts, and building room for new ideas. A couple of weeks ago, I came across a book, Forgetting by Scott A. Small, which covers this topic in detail.
The book first goes over the process of forming and retrieving long-term memories. How the hippocampus helps consolidate the memories, and how other sensory regions help strengthen or weaken these connections. It explores dendritic spines, which grow and shrink during consolidation, and the recently discovered molecular process dedicated to forgetting.
The rest of the book connects the benefits of forgetting for creativity, innovation, fear, mental disorders, and optimal decision-making. To generate novel ideas, connect disparate concepts, think abstractly, and make optimal decisions, one has to forget. Forgetting is not a process of completely erasing memories but rather making them less detailed. It’s a process of generalization. Only then can we see patterns otherwise lost in the mayhem of detail.
P.S. In ML, learning algorithms are a way of generalizing knowledge. This concept is somewhat analogous to memory consolidation, where lack of forgetting is known as overfitting.
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