Friday, March 11, 2016

Joshua Foer's 'Moonwalking with Einstein' - Discussion Questions

Joshua Foer, at the 2006 USA Memory Championship

(1982 - Present)

The subtitle of ‘Moonwalking with Einstein’ is ‘The Art and Science of Remembering Everything’. Do you feel the author delivers on that front? Has reading this book unfolded to you the secrets of remembering ‘everything’?

As is evident from the book, to the greater majority of us, ‘remembering’ is a conscious act requiring time and focus. As Joshua Foer himself convincingly points out, we live in an age of ‘externalized memories’. Why would we, why should we, choose to go the extra mile to commit things to memory when we have data available to us at our fingertips?

‘…the “magical number seven” seems to be the universal carrying capacity of our short-term working memory.’ Would you agree with this?

The yogis tell us ‘to live in the present moment’. Compare that statement vis-a-vis the circumstances of EP (The Most Forgetful Man in the World). What has EP gained? What has he lost?

Discuss the technique of ‘the memory palace’ employed by the author and the other memory athletes in this book. Did you try experimenting with it? What was your experience of this technique?

In ‘How to Memorize a Poem’ Foer says “… [our brains] are fundamentally prediction and planning machines”. Do you agree with this statement?

While attempting to train his memory, Foer hits a rut at memorizing a card deck. This leads him to his research on the OK plateau. Is the OK plateau the defining difference between the amateurs and the masters in any field of action? Is it that most of us are satisfied with ‘good enough’ while there are those who never cease pushing themselves to better their own best performance?

There are quite a few instances in this book where there is talk of revolutionizing the prevalent educational system by reintroducing the art/science of memorizing. A striking example of its success can be found in the chapter, ‘The Talented Tenth’. Has the importance of memorizing diminished in the present academic system? What are your thoughts on this?

Joshua Foer seems to have some conflicting feelings about the founder of the Memory Championships – Tony Buzan and the ‘Brainman’ (Daniel Tammet). He admits his ambivalence but does not explain it. What do you think could be his reasons?

Were you able to relate this book to anything else you have read or personally experienced?

On his journey to becoming America’s Memory Champion, Foer meets a gallery of interesting, eccentric individuals. Discuss the ones that caught your interest.

Has reading this book changed you in any way?

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