Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Memory Sports

I've been told off for telling TV/newspaper/internet people that the memory techniques we use in competitions are completely useless for any real-world application and that there is no point to memory competitions other than the competitions in and of themselves. I think there is some element of fairness in this criticism, and I will make an effort not to put it quite like that in future. Also, as you can see from the title, I'm going to stop putting 'memory sports' in inverted commas, and just call it memory sports with a straight face from now on.

What I WON'T do, however, is describe memory competitions as edu-tainment. The answer to "What's the point of doing this?" shouldn't be "Because it teaches techniques that improve your intelligence/learning ability/career prospects/attractiveness to women" [haven't seen anyone arguing the last one, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time], and it certainly shouldn't be "Pay me three thousand pounds to attend my course and I'll tell you" - it really should be "What a stupid question. Do you ask what the point of playing football is? The point is that there is a competition and I try to win it."

I think if memory sports are to become an international institution, the competitions need to be divorced in the public consciousness from the idea of memory in general. Competitors skilled in memorising long numbers shouldn't be asked for tips on how to remember where you've left your car keys, any more than footballers should be asked how best to climb mountains. If we're going to encourage young people to take part in competitions, it's a very bad idea to go out there and tell them that these techniques will help them revise for exams. Because they won't - or at least they won't be as effective or quite the same thing as the techniques we use in a competition.

Let's see these memory championships being pushed as a thing in their own right, and not a sideshow to a seminar! That's the approach I'm going to take from now on, anyway. Basically, I'm still going to stress that I don't apply my memory techniques to everyday life, but in a more positive way - sure, there are similar and effective techniques you can use to remember your car keys if you really want to, but that's nothing to do with me. I'm a memory athlete. Completely different thing. Don't let the name fool you.


Loofa Dog said...

You were told off by whom?

Anybody important?

Are 'they' the current UK and World memory champion?

It's YOUR opinion!

Tell 'them' to eat your shorts.

Anonymous said...

I found your latest blog very sad, how can you be so down beat and cenacle about Memory Sports and their applications. Especially within schools, how can it be a bad thing to give kids a way to shine - to say look what I can do (an important part of any human beings development). The jocks get their sports day, the show offs get their shows. The artists get their exhibitions, musicians get their time in the spot light.
It saddens me that you are at the top of the tree - you are the No 1 and hold the top spot - yet you use your platform to make jokes at the expense of others to poo poo the efforts of people who would like to make a positive impact on the lives of young people, not only that but the school bully who everyone remembers from their days at school now has a different way of pulling his punches a new secret weapon of firing bullets from behind a computer screen.

Zoomy said...

Loofa: The telling-off came from one of the wonderful people who work excessively long hours organising memory competitions (for free) and also make a living from tangentially-related training sessions. As such, I think his opinion is important and worth heeding (even if I'm not going to go around enthusiastically recommending these courses). Also, I only own one pair of wearable shorts, I like to wear them in the summer, but at my time of life I can't really bring myself to go into a shop and buy a new pair, so I'm not going to invite anybody to eat them. Besides, they'd taste yucky.