iPhone application 'Forget Me Not'
In my previous blog post I discussed Locke's CommonPlace book and information overload in the 16th century. Now, my attention turns to what we use today.
Whilst Google manages our common knowledge extremely well, it does not help us remember the most basic and arguably important data for success, people's names.
Dale Carnegie, in his infamous book, How to Make Friends and Influence People, said that "a man's name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language". He gives an example of a useful strategy to remember people:
Whenever he met a new acquaintance, he found out his complete name, the size of his family, the nature of his business and the color of his political opinions. He got all these facts well in mind as part of the picture, and the next time he met that man, even if it was a year later, he was able to slap him on the back, inquire after the wife and kids, and ask him about the hollyhocks in the backyard. No wonder he developed a following! 
The new iPhone application Forget Me Not is designed to merge Google's search functionality with the Dale Carnegie's recommendation. What I find particularly interesting about this application, are the clue recommendations:
Clue Helper screen capture from Forget Me Not
These recommendations suggest that the 21st century iPhone user is just as interested in business connections as they were in 1936, but they no longer prioritize a person's core, such as their family or values (i.e. political opinion). I can't help but feel that remembering a person's sport's team is going to make less of an impression than remembering the name of a person's child.
Does this reflect the nature of conversation amongst strangers today, particularly those preoccupied with mobile phones? Do we converse about our sport or club affiliations more than we discuss the controversial, global issues that face the world? What sort of question do you ask of someone you just met to make a good impression?
On the mnemonic side, taking the time to record details of the location you met someone is a great way to jog memories of the person. Combining spatio-temporal information and facial features is likely to enhance subsequent remembering.
Forget Me Not, would surely be ideal to utilize when attending a professional conference. You could record a person's name, their field of study, their philosophical views and so forth. Probably asking about their family will yield better networking for further occasions.
I admit that I'm struck by the degree of alien interaction that occurs at philosophy conferences. Fellow philosophers might not discuss Britney Spears or the Mets, but they often come up and talk to you by blathering about this or that argument without ever really engaging with you on a personal level. This goes for both sexes, although I'm sure female philosophers feel under pressure to avoid as much 'small talk' as possible to appear intelligent. This is yet another arena where social intelligence is ignored for the glory of analytic capacity.
Anyway, I've bought the application. I'll let you know how it goes. :)
UPDATE: This application focuses on what is memorable, memory-hooks, but not what is strategic to remember about a person.
Carnegie, D. (1936) How to Win Friends and Influence People. New York: Simon and Schuster. 74.