Science and Society

Reprise #3: the value of memory

Last reprise for the moment!

According to this marvellous post, a British (yes, the Brits feature again) brain has actually worked out a formula able to place a precise, sterling value on one’s memories.

It factors in elements such as how vividly you recall it, its perceived importance, and a host of other interesting factoids. It’s also available here, if you’d like to try it out…

It’s all part of his research into how, essentially, to use neuroscience to enable companies to tailor their marketing even more. And this is where it gets sticky, I think.

I will, quite freely, admit to not being a mathematician, and so will refrain from any pithy comments related to the formula.

As a former market researcher/analyst (amongst other things), I am generally not overly concerned by companies’ efforts to tailor their efforts to us. I would probably rather have my time wasted by ads I might be slightly interested in, than not. Probably. Certainly, I can understand the companies’ point of view.

Then again, people have varied levels of resistance to marketing messages, which is where some of my friends’ misgivings come in. They worry that such tailoring makes it more and more difficult for people to say ‘no’ to marketing messages. Particularly, well, the so-called ‘mass market’ (an ever more inaccurate phrase, frankly). No, this does not, sadly, paint a picture of humanity as reasonably able to make decisions for themselves. Nonetheless.

Personally, I find myself sitting uncomfortably on the proverbial fence with mixed feelings about this development and what it heralds. I’m amused, yes. It’s funny, after all.

I’m also slightly worried by it - it does seem that companies’ are increasingly looking for the edge in their messages, and are quite happy to manipulate us at levels where, frankly, the ability to filter messages is not longer an option.

Mostly, though, my overriding emotion is this: fantastic, we’ve managed to attach a monetary value to yet another integral part of the human experience…


In other news, I shall be attending Semi-Permanent this week in my ‘i heart design’ hat*, as one of Idealog’s roving writer-type people.  Hooray!  Look out for the tweets and the posts on Idealog‘s site :)


No, it’s not an _actual_ hat.