It's All Mind Games: Memory, Morality, and the Modern World

There is a very intriguing dance between memory and perception going on in our noggins. On one side, humans are very bad narrators that tend to cast a flattering glow on the past; and on the other side, is well… the truth. But maybe it was better back in the olden days; at the very least it was different. This week we’re learning why you should still keep a hand-written journal, why we aren’t in a moral decline as a society, and why 2012 was such a pivotal year in shaping the modern world.

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Welcome to the August 20, 2023 edition of the Digest.

You are a very bad, very unreliable narrator.

Yes, you. While our brains may be insane quantum supercomputers that do incredible things, they also prefer to look at the world from a kinder and gentler viewpoint, and by doing that we also remember ourselves in, perhaps, a better light than deserved. So, how do we prevent this? Author Jim O’Shaughnessy advices  employing your past self and keeping hand-written journal of any important decisions  or events, so that you can reference them - and the handwriting is a key factor. Check out why, here. Link.

2012 was a peak year.

It could even be considered the birth of modern life, says Erik Hoel. From economic trends to technology booms (when did you get your first smart phone? Your friends?) to social norms, political malaise, and cultural revolution, there has been a noticeable shift. By looking at the data, we are in a time eerily similar to the 1970’s, a decade that “obviously suck[ed]”, to quote the iconic movie Dazed and Confused. But what forces made this year stand out? And what should we expect for the future? Link.

Speaking of human memory and the olden days…

Adam Mastroianni published a paper Nature back in June on the illusion of moral decline. Think: how many times in your life have you heard “back in my day…” and how many times have you caught yourself saying it? The majority of people think morality—or to put it simply kindness, respect, honesty, things like that—has declined. But just because they think it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily true. So why do people think we are in a state of moral decline? Likely a lot of reasons, but mainly bias memory and biased exposure. Link.