Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

How can we learn and not forget

“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” (Pablo Neruda)

Photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

Photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

Love is a high attention phase in our life, and once love fades, also memories. However, when we experience love as transformative, and such transformation endures throughout generations, forgetting becomes a slow process.

Inspired by Neruda’s sentence, a group of researchers led by Christian Candia and César Hidalgo suggest that forgetting in our society follows a universal mathematical function with two memory components: communicative and cultural.

Communicative memory is the “Love is so short” part we pay a lot of attention at the beginning, but easily forget after a short time. We associate this memory component with oral communication.

Cultural memory is the “forgetting is so long” which lasts as an intrinsic part of our human way of life since we physically record the information, thus, sustaining it for future generations.

The implications for learning are profound.

The first stage of learning is through oral communication, although in the digital age, social networking extended the ways we communicate. But, even if the information is now digitally recorded, it doesn’t mean we won’t forget it. The pace at which we produce information can quickly turn something important irrelevant.

Only if we convert what we learn into part of our culture, will such learning last. We see this is many teachings of the Stoics, and the Prophets in the Bible, which produce an impact till this day. And I would extend to everything we learn on a daily basis.

The challenge to the Learning Mind is the conversion of daily learning into cultural change. It isn’t enough to communicate others what we learn. Learning can only transform our lives if it changes how we do things and how we live. It means cultural change is significantly affected by what we learn every day.

There must be a moment when there is a transition between a high attention learning (communicative memory) into a cultural change which performs a life transformation experience (cultural memory). I call this moment the Perennial Act: making what we learn into how we live.

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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