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Overloaded? Just Forget It

News that the Mars rover Spirit had a crippling memory overload and worries that its landing pal, Opportunity, might also be afflicted are actually reassuring to many non-engineers left behind on Earth. Sure, puzzling malfunctions like electronic fur balls hinder research and exciting explorations of the galactic neighborhood. (How did Columbus explain the Santa Maria sinking?) But scientists at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Lab, busy with their own memories and nearly 20 probes roboting around the solar system, profess confidence about the future by deleting a few files or remotely telling the choking craft to forget a whole file cabinet of stuff. The news from 106 million miles away also comforts the ground-bound confused who say their creeping loss of memory and roving capacities are due to aging.

Now we’re reassured that the inability to recall today’s plethora of passwords, codes, user names -- plus appointments, anniversaries, yesterday’s gas price and where that other $20 bill went -- is not due to gray matter liquefying after years of sporadic use.

Now we know that this temporal incapacity incontrovertibly and inevitably occurs because we know too much. We’re too smart for our limited human RAMs. Our brain’s working memory is overloaded with growing data piles of wisdom and gigabytes of trivia from so many years of living and learning stuff in an increasingly fast-paced society. That sounds much better than senile.

In 1927, Charles somebody flew the Atlantic. A generation later, another Charles -- this one a Chuck -- flew a jet faster than sound. A decade later, a large collection of nonautonomous republics hiding behind Eastern Europe sent a beeping capsule orbiting the world, then launched a dog called Yuri and a man named Laika, or the other way around. Anyway, things began happening quicker on Earth and in space.

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It’s the devil to keep up. A president was killed, his successor retired, his successor resigned, his successor got booted, as did his successor, who wore cozy cardigan sweaters beyond his years. Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn were together forever, but J.Lo, Paris and Britney break new beau barriers. Snow White had seven dwarfs before the layoffs and the Democrats still have nine, no, eight, no, seven candidates. Or six? Last night’s frontrunner is today’s loser. Last week’s nobody is today’s obvious favorite. PDAs are essential and obsolete. At breakfast, polls show Americans united on an issue; by the 10 p.m. news, everyone’s changed his mind. Hit movies are gone by month’s end. TV shows have eight-week “seasons.” Sunday’s game is a “classic” by Wednesday.

It’s all no doubt most important but way too much to mentally store without deletions and rebooting. Jot down a note to remember that.


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