Natalie Haynes: It's about time we did some remembering for ourselves

The thing is...

Share
Related Topics

The thing is that if you ring me today and ask me a trivia question, I may not be able to answer it. Usually, I am the first person you should come to if you want to know the dates of the emperor Caligula (37-41AD), the full name of Danger Mouse's sidekick (Ernest Penfold), and whether Gloria Swanson or Bette Davis won the Best Actress Oscar in 1951 (neither, it was Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday).

But today, I fear can't help you. Because today, Wikipedia is due to be turned off for 24 hours in protest at draconian new plans to combat piracy in the United States, so I can't double-check my facts. I am relying on the powers of my memory alone, and that isn't what it once was.

And I'm not alone. Yesterday, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, suggested that students do their homework early, because of the planned blackout today. Since Wikipedia didn't exist when I last had homework to do, it hadn't really occurred to me that academia would grind to a halt without it.

But perhaps it would do us all good to try for more than three seconds to remember something unaided. Or to look things up in books, using an index. We don't have to do this every day, just today.

I don't think the internet has made us stupider – quite the reverse – but I do think it has made us lazier. And if we never bother to sit and work out which actor it is that's in the TV adaptation of the book your mum likes – you know, the one with the woman in it who was married to Robert whatshisname – we might lose the ability to remember that kind of information at all.

I don't know the phone numbers of almost any of my friends, for example, because I never actually dial them. I look up the name, and my phone does the rest. Yet I can still remember every phone number I knew as a child, which must amount to hundreds of digits in total. I had the capacity to remember long strings of numbers, but now I've forgotten how to do it.

The same is surely true of sat-navs, a plague on society and all who drive in it. People managed to navigate their way around the globe before satellites, and not one of them ever drove their cart into a river because someone said to go that way. They looked at their surroundings and employed the criminally underrated skill of common sense.

So rather than panic at the loss of Wikipedia today, I intend to cope without it. I will read books and not get embroiled in trivia. And, if that doesn't work, I'll look it up on IMDb.

www.nataliehaynes.com

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power