Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Memory issues

In the overlap between personal reflection and “caveat lector”:

Much of what is written here is based on personal experiences. These are sometimes recent relative the time of writing; sometimes they are further back—at extremes going back to my early childhood. (And it is often the case that memories and impressions from my childhood or teens are stronger than those from my adult life.)

When I re-visit my own texts, I often have the problem that I do not remember (or misremember) a particular recent-when-writing, but now long-ago, event—and very often I only remember something through the mention in the text. To some degree, my texts serve as a memory store similar to the tattoos in “Memento”. (But with the critical difference that I do remember an enormous amount of other things—“Memento” saw an attempt to find a rudimentary replacement for a dead natural memory; my texts are a mere complement to a fully functioning memory. An interesting question, however and drawing on “Memento”, is what might happen if someone else managed to manipulate my texts without my knowledge.)

Notably, I wrote a great number of texts in or around 2012 that long went unpublished. Getting around to publishing in 2023–2024, I re-read, make minor revisions, and add a little to reflect a newer perspective or experiences in the interim. Just reading the texts makes things come back to me that I had not thought about in years and that might not have occurred to me even with some lesser prompting. (Including events and persons not mentioned in the texts, as I reminisced about an older multi-year project that was the basis for several texts.) Sometimes, there are things that I either do not remember at all or of which I have only the slightest recollection. Sometimes, I encounter examples of specific events that would have made a good fit for inclusion in some later text, but which simply did not occur to me when I wrote that later text.

An overlapping issue is that there are quite a few 2012 texts that I do not remember writing, at all, and some that I have even contemplated writing at later times, having forgotten that I had already written them.

In other cases, I once had a considerable degree of knowledge and understanding of something, but see that knowledge and understanding severely diminished. (With the reservation, of course, that refreshing/relearning what was once known can be a much faster process than the original learning.) A good example is MBTI, which is referenced in several (pre-2012) texts: I had read and understood quite a lot; today, however, I remember virtually nothing beyond the basics covered in any five-minute introduction to the topic. In the case of MBTI, this is not a great loss, and a strongly contributing reason to my remembering so little is that MBTI does not really make sense. It is a semi-arbitrary hodgepodge with no true logic behind it—much unlike e.g. portions of old math knowledge that I can (often!) either remember or rapidly reconstruct based on logical connections. In other cases, it can e.g. be the difference between being immediately productive in a new project or having to spend time getting rid of the rust. (For instance, one of the 2012 texts mentioned Hibernate, which is used to automatically save Java objects into database tables, restore them from said tables, etc. On a first mention, I did not even recall what Hibernate was, despite having used it in several projects and having read at least one book on the topic. Much came back quite quickly, but I would certainly want to read up again before I attempted to use it professionally—even apart from the problem that there might have been considerable changes since my last use.)