Sunday, October 28, 2007

Forgetting stuff

I was just pondering on the nature of knowledge. We spend a lot of our time learning new things; we have experiences, and a part of what we do sticks in our heads as skill and experience. The more we're exposed to knowledge and information, the better we learn them. And the more we do something, the more strongly it becomes a part of our working skill set. But there's also another side to the way we process skills and experiences. Just like we acquire knowledge and skill by repetition, we can also lose skills by letting them fall out of practice. We lose knowledge by losing touch with the related bits of knowledge; the facts are probably still there, floating around in our heads somewhere, but they get harder to connect to when we need them.

The loss might be more pronounced with skills than knowledge. You can remember having a skill or ability, but you can no longer perform it. I'm thinking about this after I discovered this morning that I no longer have access to a skill that used to be part of my repertoire: I can no longer flip pancakes in midair. I thought I could, but I discovered the hard way that it's no longer in my skill set. As failures go, it was impressive in its magnitude and mess. I even managed to get pancake batter on the front of the microwave. But it's all cleaned up now, just in time to pick up Laura at the airport. I may not have done any extensive pre-Laura's-return cleaning, but at least there's no pancake batter on the ceiling to greet her on her arrival....

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