Monday, September 20, 2021

Working Memory and the Limits of Complexity

 Increasingly it becomes clear that limit to working memory seems to have an abrupt threshold at a single day.  In this sense, the movie "Memento" is a valuable tool for comprehending this phenomenon.  The tactic used to surmount this limit?  Documentation.

The second order problem is then, with increasing amounts of documentation, is how to access that content efficiently.  If it eventually takes as much as a day's time to find the information needed, you have then reached the peak amount of complexity your system can handle. Or does it?

You could use the tactic of notating, or creating a hyperlink, to each piece of information that took the inordinate amount of time (up to a day) to locate.  Now you have a shortlist of links to the information you will need to re-acquire.  In practice, this feels very marginal in benefit.  If it took a day to locate a single piece of information, it probably would take nearly as much time to internalize that information again to working memory.


The Trust Factor:  If you were the original author of the information, there is a much shorter barrier to convincing oneself of the truth of re-accessed information.  However, there are many times when I realized that, as elegantly as seemingly understood a concept is, it later turns out to be not necessarily "true".  Or, maybe worse, it is no LONGER "true".  The underlying phenomena has changed.

I find it dis-spiriting to have to release no longer true information that took a day to acquire.  It feels like there is something of value there, and you don't want to discard it wholesale.  This temperament probably differs greatly between people.  And the people who are more casual in discarding no-longer-true information must necessarily be more "progressive".  


A new collision is occurring: It wasn't until the advent of interconnectivity maturing (perhaps as represented by Cloud infrastructure? or just remote shared libraries? ) that SECURITY become the foremost problem of IT (dated to maybe the 2010s).  To the extent DOCUMENTATION, which I believe includes the informal, such as EMAILS and REPOSITORY REVISION HISTORY) has crossed paths with security needs.  Maybe legal implications too?  In 2020s we are seeing EMAIL PURGES, sometimes pretty extreme (monthly?).  "Record Retention Policies".  How will this impact the limits of complexity? Perhaps in practice, individuals will resort to their own informal means of self-documentation.

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