July 20th, 2019| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


Nobel Prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda (1904–1973) wrote:

“Es tan corto el amor,
y tan largo el olvido.”
(“Love is so short,
and forgetfulness is so long.”)

Poema 20

César Hidalgo is a Chilean-born physicist and author, teaching at MIT, the director of the Collective Learning group at MIT Media Lab. He’s also one of premier data miners of the world’s collective history, having helped develop a dataset that ranks historical figures by popularity. The top two? Aristotle and Plato. Jesus? #3.

A recent paper by Hidalgo and colleagues in Nature (Human Behavior) was titled, “The Universal Decay of Collective Memory and Attention,” to investigate “those pieces of knowledge or information that are shared by a large number of people.”

The scientists tracked the movement of songs, movies, sports heroes, patents, and scientific publications from 1896–2016, to explore their decay from collective memory. They discovered that there were two kinds of such fade outs:

The fading of communicative memory, normally sustained by the oral transmission of information—a short-lived and fast-decaying phase—and the diminution of cultural memory, which is sustained by the physical recording of information—a longer-lived and slower-decaying phase.”

The short-lived and fast-decaying oral phase apparently lasts for about 5–30 years. Then these items of memory pass into written and online records and experience a longer and slower decline.

Hidalgo tells of an incident when a student walked into his office a few years ago. Hidalgo was listening to music and asked the student if she recognized the what song was playing. Unsure, she asked, “Is it Coldplay?” she asked. Nope. It was “Imagine” by John Lennon.

Confessed Hidalgo:

I thought everybody knew “Imagine” by John Lennon. I’m almost 40 and my student was probably 20. But I realized ‘Imagine’ is not as popular in her generation as it was in mine, and it was probably less popular in my generation than in the generation before. People have a finite capacity to remember things. There’s great competition for the content out there, and the number of people who know or remember something decays over time.”

Yup, things fade, one way or another out of humanity’s collective memory, first fast, then slowly. A few generations on, each one of us will be forgotten, too. I never met my grandparents; I don’t remember them. You might have met yours, but what about your great-grandparents?

Fading away like the stars of the morning,
Losing their light in the glorious sun—
Thus would we pass from the earth and its toiling,
Only remembered by what we have done.

Remembered? By whom? Maybe by those who come after us?

Shall we be miss’d though by others succeeded,
Reaping the fields we in springtime have sown?
No, for the sowers may pass from their labors,
Only remembered by what they have done.

Nope! For even they are forgotten.

Ah, but there is One who remembers …

Oh, when the Savior shall make up His jewels,
When the bright crowns of rejoicing are won,
Then shall His weary and faithful disciples,
All be remembered by what they have done.

Horatius Bonar and Ira Sankey (late 1800s)

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work
and the love which you have shown toward His name,
in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.
Hebrews 6:10

Declares God:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?

Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”
Isaiah 49:15–16

Someone remembers!

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