MEDIUM TERM MEMORY

By Gregory Mitchell

Today, a major goal of Mind Development is the creation and installation of an artificially internalized Medium Term Memory to extend the Working Memory function and to provide a more effective interface than normally obtains between the Long and the Short Term Memory. Creation of a highly developed Medium Term Memory function is a major part of establishing the primary goal of the Memory Course: The Remedy of Inner Space.

Note: See the accompanying article, The Architecture of Memory for an introduction to terms such as Short Term, Medium Term, Long Term and Working Memory.

Before, however, I go on to describe what Medium Term Memory is, it is necessary to expand on the subject of Long Term and Short Term Memory, and the question of why a Medium Term Memory Function needs to be installed.

In common with the higher animals and our recent forebears, we have two natural memory functions: Short Term Memory and Long Term Memory. Adults in primitive cultures and many children in advanced cultures have a Short Term Memory that can retain a detailed image or sensory representation without degradation for about ten to fifteen seconds. During this ten to fifteen second period, the stored mental image may be accessed serially, in parallel, or randomly, and it may be modified in various ways in Working Memory before a problem is solved, a decision is made or an action is taken.

Natural Long Term Memory is also mainly an Iconic Store, in which past experiences are stored in the form of multi-sensory representations. Three billion moments of one second each can be stored in an average lifetime. Much of the content of Short Term Memory and observations are refiled in Long Term memory in iconic form, but only a tiny proportion of this content is available to voluntary recall. Furthermore, the iconic content of the Long Term Memory cannot be modified consciously, unless it is recalled to Working Memory and combined with Immediate Memory content or new observations.

These two natural memory functions were sufficient for our primitive forebears and probably suffice for certain primitive people still living today. For us, however, much of our thinking is verbal and symbolic, and the recently acquired skills of symbolic thinking have distorted the natural iconic functions of both Long and Short Term Memory. Our memory as a result is poor in comparison with primitive peoples.

At the end of the 1960s, I had the opportunity to interview a large number of people in Africa about their mental processes. Nigeria was at war at that time and many tribal people were being pushed into military service. These tribesmen were being interviewed for a different purpose, but I was able to exercise the role of psychologist. I asked many detailed questions through an interpreter, and I was surprised at the high level of introspective awareness possessed by these people. A large percentage of the subjects, who were interviewed at the time had experienced little of Western culture, and most of the subjects were illiterate. Many, however, had an undistorted natural memory.

By and large, the mental processes of these people were sensory based, rather than symbolic. Short Term Memory content was either like a short clip from a movie, with all the senses represented and lasting for about ten to fifteen seconds, or the capacity to recall between five and seven still pictures in great detail, after one presentation. Usually these images could not be manipulated internally to find solutions to the problems typically found in their culture. [It is my opinion that intuition played a much greater role and that the means by which their visio-spatial intelligence operated was through haptic and motor imagery]. Many children in our culture, who are eidetic imagers have a Short Term Memory similar to that of primitive people, but the Long Term Memory of eidetic imagers is similar to ours when we are adults. However the capacity to experience eidetic images is lost, at the latest, by the age of fourteen. We have a great deal of information stored in Long Term Memory in the form of dates, facts, formulas, etc. that are no longer connected to Personal Memory or Episodic Memory. We have both Semantic Memory, i.e. a memory for information only, whereas for tribesmen memory is almost entirely episodic.

The primitive person's subjective experience of Long Term Memory would be similar in some ways to our experience of a dream.The Australian Aborigines have a term for this: "Dream Time." It is similar to a dreaming, because Long Term Recall would be experienced as having a high level of concordance with external reality. Working in this way, Long Term Memory would provide a powerful support to the limited capacity of the Short Term Memory, by calling up icons and movies of past experience. For the primitive, Long Term Recall is almost equivalent to re-living the original experience: Long Term Memory and Short Term Memory appearing to blend into one unified system. A European or an educated African would only experience Long Term Recall in this way when in a relatively Ego-less state, such as lucid dreaming, or during an hypnotic trance when hypnosis is used to recover buried memories.

Working in this way, Long Term Memory provides a powerful support to the limited capacity of the Shot Term Memory by integrating icons and movies of past experience. Long Term Memory may be much slower to access than Short, but a much greater amount of data may be interchanged between the systems in the form of icons than we are able to achieve when we are using Semantic Memory. For us, Short and Long Term Memory act as almost separate systems. When the capacity of Short Term Memory has been exceeded due to input overload, data exits the Short Term Memory. This data is lost and cannot easily be retrieved again from Long Term Memory. In our type of consciousness, Long Term Memory provides much less support to Short Term Memory than it does for the tribesman. In contrast, most of the tribesman's semantic content is intimately bound up with the Episodic Memory of the original learning experience, so when this information exits Short Term Memory, due to overload, it is much more easily retrieved.

Since the appearance of Modern Man, at about the end of the last Ice Age, evolution has been primarily cultural rather than genetic - our brain structure has hardly changed. Cultural evolution is many times as fast as genetic evolution, so the software, the content of our thinking and the programs we use to manipulate it have changed vastly, whereas the hardware of the brain has changed but little. One of the negative consequences of this vastly increased speed of evolution is that the relationship between the part of the brain that controls Short Term Memory and the part that controls Long Term Memory has changed. This relationship has changed because new mental functions have been superimposed on the old.

People living in pre-literate cultures have have successfully accommodated to the distorted relationship between the memory systems caused by the cultural invention of language - we have not. Our memories are relatively poor. The further invention of symbolic systems of representation, especially writing, has accelerated the rate of cultural evolution beyond our capacity to accommodate, imposing a new layer of semantic functions on the software of our mind. This change in our thinking has been particularly rapid since the invention of the printing press and the development of modern arithmetic.

Reading, writing and arithmetic have changed the mental software for almost everybody living in a modern culture. A further new layer of semantic processes has been superimposed on the older layer created by language, in the context of an already distorted relationship between Short and Long Term Memory. Most people in this culture have been unable to make a positive adjustment to these rapid changes, so distortion between memory systems has become disruption.

In the current culture, both Short and Long Term Memory are largely symbolic in their operation. Most of our thinking is either in words, concepts or numbers or in 'second order' images, such as maps, diagrams or minimalist, two-dimensional images that are closer to cartoons than the underlying, iconic primary images. In advanced cultures, we have all but ceased using iconic representation, thus the natural pre-linguistic relationship between Short and Long Term Memory has been disrupted.

This final stage of cultural evolution has been very recent, it has occurred within the last 500 years. As a consequence of the disruption between the Long and the Short Term Memory Systems, most people today have a much poorer memory than they had only 500 years ago, that is since the invention of the printing press. It is this disruption between Short and Long Term Memory that has caused a collapse of inner space. Repairing this disruption and remedying this collapse of inner space is an essential step in Mind Development.

Many children in this culture have aspects of memory that are similar to those of primitive people, but a qualitative change is experienced by most of these children during their early teens; this is when concrete memory becomes predominantly abstract. A few children in the higher intelligence ranges gain the capacity for abstract thought, without losing their childhood capacities of Iconic Memory, but more than a few children are unable to make this transition from concrete to abstract thought, because the disruption in the relationship between Short and Long Term Memory is too great. Often, there are the children who were close to the top of the class in Junior School, but were found to have fallen close to the bottom of the class within the first couple of years in Senior School.

Soon after the invention of writing, memory deterioration was apparent to the wise but the cultural solution to this was to create an external Medium Term Working Memory, by using more of the same cultural inventions that unfortunately caused the memory deterioration in the first place. An external Medium Term Working Memory is created by using different forms of external representation to build a two way bridge between Short and Long Term Memory and to increase mental capacity for certain types of symbolic operations.

The long term consequences of creating a Medium Term Working Memory are that the memory processes of modern man, whether they concern semantic or episodic memory, short term or long, is that they are largely symbolic low definition, second order imagery, lacking many of the sensory modalities or informative descriptions. The mental content of modern man reflects the content of external memory. With the exception of the artistically trained, iconic Short Term Memory vanishes in about a second, leaving mostly symbols, and most of the information transferred from Long Term Memory to Short is in the form of concepts and words, backed up from time to time by flashes of iconic imagery in one sensory modality or another. Although modern man still has an iconic store in Long Term Memory this is seldom tapped, unless the mind is specially trained or there are extreme, emotional states of mind, or if special methods such as hypnosis are used.

Initially, external memory consisted of writing, drawing simple pictures, maps, diagrams, and simple devices such as the abacus to extend the powers of calculation. Since that time, these basic processes have been supplemented by printed books, libraries, tape recorders, photographs, movies, calculators, and recently the personal computer. One the one hand, all these different cultural inventions have increased the range, scope, capacity and speed of access to our External Medium Term Working Memory, thus bringing the present culture rapidly into being. On the other hand, the abundant creation of an External Medium Term Working Memory has conflicted with the natural process of mental development, during childhood and early adult life, both causing and fueling many types of neurosis and psychotic illnesses. These are mental illnesses of modern man. When primitive men and women come into contact with the modern culture, and to a degree are educated within it, they manifest similar psychological problems as suffered by modern man.

According to the developmental psychologists Lev Vigotski and Jean Piaget, natural mental development and the growth of intelligence is essentially the successive internalization of mental operations that were once external, thereby building up mental models of increasing sophistication, e.g. counting on one's fingers during infancy becomes mental arithmetic at a later stage of childhood. Likewise, a trainee chef learns, by experiments performed externally, to build an internal model of cooking that gives him the power to create new dishes, through experiments in the realm of thought. In contrast, making mental processes external has uncreated internal memory, thus opposing the natural direction of mental development, namely the internalization of external models. As a result, we are seriously hindered if we wish to be an advanced student of Mind Development.

Since the invention of the printing press, our memories have seriously deteriorated - and to a large extent there has been a collapse of inner space. But, until recently our powers of reasoning, calculation and imagination have remained relatively intact. However, since the invention of the computer about 50 years ago, and as a consequence of the easy availability of the pocket calculator, we have also started losing many of the powers of thinking. Moreover, we are doing so at an ever increasing rate; we are now starting to reap the bitter fruit of externalizing the thinking processes, rather than internalizing them, resulting in a drop in IQ of more than 10% in a single generation.

Over the last 30 years that I have been running Mind Development Courses, I have noticed an increasing tendency for students to externalize mental operations. In the early days, such students were only a small minority, but today this minority is approaching 50% and the average IQ of the students of the students has fallen. This is in contrast to the 1% or so of the most highly creative scientists and artists, who have a vast store of general knowledge both of principles and facts, from which they can mentally fashion new creative combinations. In addition, they usually have many mental skills including a high level of crystalized intelligence and they are considerably higher than average capacity in most types of memory. These artists and scientists have this expanded capacity because they have spent a large part of their life internalizing mental processes and thereby increasing their capacity to perform thought experiments, not because they are made from superior clay.

In the early days of Mind Development, we could see the problems that lay ahead through reading science fiction that dealt with the near future - books that had been written by authors who had in the past made accurate predictions - and through observation, as the rot had already started with a minority of students. Consequently, using slide rules was banned in the course room. Some years later, this ban extended to calculators and any other form of mental amplifier. Students were also asked to refrain from using such devices for trivial purposes in their daily life. These rules stand firm to this day.

This solution was not sufficient of itself. At best it could only halt the process of externalization; for the most part it could not turn back the clock and reverse the process. This did not provide a solution to the problem of restoring iconic memory power and correcting the relationship between Short and Long Term Memory Systems.

Iconic recall has a similarity to hypnotically guided recall, so during the late 60s and the early 70s, we explored a number of hypnotic solutions to the problem of the disrupted relationship between the Long and the Short Term Memory and the collapse of Inner Space, which obtains from that. This approach was not fully successful and in many cases caused new problems. Although hypnotically induced Iconic Recall was similar to that of primitive consciousness and it could be restored by the use of hypnosis, the resulting state of consciousness was not stable, and in many cases the normal abstract, symbolic form of thinking required in a modern culture was disrupted instead of developing the iconic memory system. It would appear that in many cases, hypnosis returned a student to a pre-symbolic mode of memory function with Iconic Recall, but the student's mind was overwhelmed with detail, so abstract thinking was almost impossible. One student's IQ fell from 151 to 112, although his memory was almost perfect, and it took 6 weeks for his normal mode of mental functioning to re-assert itself. He was not best pleased.

The above situation describes an extreme case but not the only case. Many students retained their capacity for abstract thought, but in these cases there was often a weakening of the Ego. In fact, in some cases hypnotic techniques led to a state similar to that of the early stages of a psychosis. As a consequence of the above the use of hypnosis was withdrawn in 1972, except for parts of the highest level of Mind Development in which hypnosis was used for a different purpose than restoring iconic memory and the remedy of inner space. There was no problem using hypnosis in these applications, because the work done on the levels below the highest level precluded such problems.

Our solution for today's student is for the student, through the use of Mnemonic Systems, to install an internal Medium Term Working Memory. This is the major action of the Memory Course (currently being revised before issue in Spring 2015), leading to a state of mind we call the Soft Breakthrough. Medium Term Memory in this context may be defined as a Medium Term Memory System, overlapping both Short and Long Term Memory, and possessing some of the qualities of both.

The system we are teaching today is based on a user friendly version of the Automatic Memory System taught to the 20% most able students in the old days. The Artificial Medium Term Working Memory used in Mind Development is a creative combination of several Artificial Mnemonic Systems, used in combination with a number of effective methods of memorization plus some special additions of our own. We have found that no problems have occurred using the above method. The Mnemonic Medium Term Working Memory solution will effective bridge the gap between Long and Short Term Memory; continued work with this system will awaken partial Iconic Memory and remedy the loss of Inner Space, leading to the Soft Breakthrough, after which the new memory system becomes all but automatic. This state of consciousness or state of mind will occur without the danger of collapsing abstract thinking processes. In fact, abstract thinking will be enhanced by the techniques used on the Memory Course. A major ability arises - the ability to switch from one hemisphere of the brain to the other.

This system, once internalized and drilled to the point of automatic operation, will provide 100 memory addresses, each capable of holding up to 3 digits or ten words. This is equivalent to a Short Term Memory span for 30 symbols or 1,000 words, or if you wish, 1,000 key words, and this is equivalent to 20,000 words of running text or more. Put another way, by using key words at the rate of one to two per paragraph, a reasonable sized book could be encoded into your Mnemonic System, and recalled with more than 90% certainty of recall.

Access would be serial, random or parallel, although parallel access would be limited to 5 to 7 items at a time, but access time for a particular symbol or symbol group would be short. Typically, access time is between 20 and 500 milliseconds, in the case of a practiced student; a student who has achieved the Soft Breakthrough. This speed of access is faster than that of Long Term Memory, but slower in the case of Short Term Memory. The content of Medium Term Memory can reliably be retrieved after several hours, rather than seconds or minutes, and in some cases after several days. This will occur because much of the Medium Term Memory content will refile as Long Term Memory content, increasing learning capacity by several hundred percent. Unlike Short Term Memory, this system can easily be added to once it has been fully installed. In the Advanced Course, this system is expanded to ten fields of 100 memory addresses, in short 1,000 memory addresses.

As the speed of access of the Medium Term Memory is closer to that of Short Term Memory, it will back it up, and it will also extend the range and capacity of Working Memory. Although the field of Working Memory will only double (much more on the Advanced Levels), it will have expanded to a size that will encompass a significant portion of the Medium Term Memory, at any one time, and it will be able to move from any one part of the Medium Term Memory Field to any other part in a few hundred milliseconds. So there is a very intimate relationship between the two systems. The implication of this relationship is that the entire capacity of the Medium Term Memory is accessible, although only about 8% can be viewed at the same time and the remaining 92% is not open to introspection, so that Medium Term Memory can be used as an extended Working Memory, if a slower speed (half) of access can be accepted.

Medium Term Memory resembles a sheet of paper or a blackboard. If Short Term Memory is in danger of being overloaded by the partial products of reasoning and calculation, and these partial products cannot be erased and thrown away as Exformation (unneeded information), this content can be dumped into Medium Term Memory for subsequent retrieval at a later stage of calculating or reasoning. Or, with practice, you can learn to use the extended working field of the Medium Term Memory as an external thinking aid, such as a piece of paper or a whiteboard. Used in this way, the Artificial Medium Term Memory could be considered as a Medium Term Working Memory. Likewise in creative thinking, 50 to more than 100 pieces of information, either data or instructions or a mixture of the two ,can be assembled from Long Term Memory and brought together in close proximity, then combined with new information from the content of the Short Term Memory, before starting work on this combined information.

Continued practice will eventually integrate the Medium Term Memory System until it seems natural, then a degree of Iconic Recall becomes possible. Once this stage (the Soft Breakthrough) has been reached, a student will have the Episodic/Iconic memory advantages of the primitive, combined with an expanded power of abstract thought. Semantic Short Term Working Memory and Semantic Long Term Memory will act as one. After this stage has been reached, a student will be able to use the entire working field of the Medium Term Memory and internalize many mental operations that previously were only possible with a pencil and paper or a sophisticated pocket calculator. This will open the door to the more advanced courses.

In the Mind Development Memory Course, a student is taught a wide range of applications for his/her newly expanded memory capacities and encouraged to work things out in their head, rather than reaching for a piece of paper, calculator, organizer or some other reasoning machine to be invented in the future, further dumbing people down. In addition to raising their IQ, they will function better in real life outside of the educational system, and be affected less by any psychoneurosis he or she may suffer from. The effect of internalizing these sophisticated tools is to establish a new and further layer to the thinking process - a Meta-Level, making a student more able to think about his thinking, be better at reflection and have increased powers of introspection. A new Meta-Level acts as an intelligence multiplier, enhancing a student's capacity to perceive, pose and resolve problems. A student's level of performance - their intelligence, creative capacity and capacity for intuition - becomes equivalent to their IQ times the multiplication factor of the Meta-Level. Finally, a student will experience extended states of No-Mind, during which time their intuition, a form of mature intuition, will have its full sway.

Gregory Mitchell, Manchester 1995