Thursday, August 4, 2011

Moonwalking With Einstein - Architecture Hunting

Moonwalking With Einstein is an interesting little "documentary" book about a man that wins a memory competition. While it does not try to be a "how-to" authority on how memory works, it is an enjoyable, casual stroll down "mnemonic lane." A couple of highlights that I enjoyed:

-Memory is a skill. People that memorize decks of cards aren't superhuman, they have simply perfected a skill.

-To remember more, think in a more memorable way (Having a mnemonic system in place to "encode" information on-the-fly is one of the extreme ways of doing this)

-Architectural hunting. Because our brains are very good at remembering locations, actual physical locations are a relatively"stable" place where memories can be stored. Although he did not state to do the following, I got the idea to simply walk around with a camera (Or video camera) and "map out" a location for future reference. The camera is merely to ensure that my memory is stable (Along with adding pictures to Supermemo). While scoping out a location, think of where "hooks" exist for you to place objects in the future.

For example, when walking around a small organic food store near a friend's house, I put my cell phone up to my ear while it was recording a video, and I faked a conversation in Japanese. I walked around the store, making sure I understood the general layout of the place. While doing this, I was looking for good places to "hook" information. I think I managed to get 8 to 10 memory hooks, and this was from a single small store that I will probably never visit again.

If this book has inspired me to do anything, it is to constantly hunt for memory architecture. It's not very time-consuming and the number of places you can use to store memories architecture is virtually endless.


  1. Interesting, this definitely supports the Kanji Town concept. I wonder what other uses there are for memory architecture? It seems to be an excellent way to remember sets of information (eg the member states of the EU, or kanji readings).

  2. My present desire is to get 99 different physical locations "mapped out" so that I can memorize anything associated with numbers 1-99. Thus, if I use the organic food store for number 75, and I want to remember that a particular event happened in 1975, I "place" a person or object associated with that event on one of the food store "hooks." Add a flashcard to Supermemo, and that memory is stored forever.
    At least, that's the plan right now...

  3. SM 15 is out!

  4. Just happened to chance upon your site while looking for online flashcards that use memory system! Interesting blog you have here. i'm one that is engrossed in pouring over memory techniques, for i sure is one forgetful one :)

  5. Right now I am reading this book (very interesting) - the concept of loki for storing memories / images is very similar to the KanjiTown you described earlier. Do you think of using PAO system with SuperMemo?

  6. I certainly don't see why one wouldn't try and use PAO with SuperMemo. But SuperMemo is a long-term storage place, like a lock box at the bank. It seems that certain memory feats are short-term in nature (Numbers, decks of cards, etc.). As long as you want to remember something forever, using mnemonics (Whichever you prefer; PAO, kanjitown, etc.) is a great shortcut for doing this. Just make sure your information selection is good. Memorizing the phone book might be possible but it certainly isn't as practical or as useful as remembering the 200 most common words in Mandarin Chinese.

    I am currently experimenting with a more extensive version of kanji town that encompasses almost all of the stuff I want to remember. I'll post about it shortly.