Perfect recall and perfect oblivion are impossible

[Added May 1997]I have “experimented” for many years
with learning and recollecting long lists of words (around 1000 items).
What you discover with this exercise,that apart from the initial effort
to learn the list,once you know it by heart,you have to rehearse it
regularly to keep it in memory. In my case I found that I had to rehearse
every month, otherwise the list would start to lose its pieces.
The “damage” was proportional to the time passed without recollection:after
for example, one year, re-learning the list was a big job, although not like
the first time. Until now, I have found no way to ensure a perfect recall
of a list without periodic recollections. On the other end ,it is also
true that a list never goes really away. For example,around 20 years ago,
I learned by heart a list of 1000 movies titles but I didn’t rehearse it
any more, after the initial learning. Now , when I see the title of
a movie, I can easily remember that it was in the list.

Sometime it would be nice to have something like perfect oblivion.
Think about all those sad memories haunting you from the past. Unfortunately
this proves impossible because of the way our memory system works.
Not only are our memories scattered everywhere in the brain, but part of them are
outside the control of our consciousness. In fact our brain seems to have
two systems that work in parallel,each one with its memory:the unconscious
one is based on the inner brain and ensures a quick reaction to dangerous
situations. The other one is under our consciousness and will examine
later the situation. So if we see something looking like a snake on our way,
we first jump to avoid it and then we look more carefully to discover that
it is only a stick. It is possible that the memories used by the inner
brain are impossible to erase.

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