10 Things Software Developers Should Learn about Learning

published on 2023/12/27
  1. Human Memory Is Not Made of Bits

Human memory is central to learning. As Kirschner and Hendrick put it, "Learning means that there has been a change made in one's long-term memory."20 Software developers are familiar with the incredible power of computer memory, where we can store a series of bits and later retrieve that exact series of bits. While human memory is similar, it is neither as precise nor as reliable.

Due to the biological complexity of human memory, reliability is a complicated matter. With computer memory, we use two fundamental operations: read and write. Reading computer memory does not modify it, and it does not matter how much time passes between writes and reads. Human long-term memory is not as sterile. Human memory seems to have a "read-and-update" operation, wherein fetching a memory can both strengthen and modify it—a process known as reconsolidation. This modification is more likely on recently formed memories. Because of this potential for modification, a fact does not exist in a binary state of either definitively known or unknown; it can exist in intermediate states. We can forget things we previously knew, and knowledge can be unreliable, especially when recently learned.