One of the first things we do upon waking up is input a code to access our smart phones. My routine is no doubt similar to yours. I then get out of bed, have a coffee and enter a password to read the morning emails. I leave the house for the day and tap in a sequence of numbers to initiate the security alarm. I get to work, a four digit code is needed for authorised entry. A hands scanner is present with another required code to clock in and out. Logging into Windows, another password. I type my unique work system username, then another password.
I use 10-15 seperate passwords/codes in my daily life, at least. A constantly growing number. How much storage space is needed for all of these? Does muscle memory take over? Showerthoughts on Reddit certainly thinks so.
On our mental capacity cannot be measured exactly but it has been estimated to be around a million gigabytes.
Paul Reber, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, states in the Scientific American:
The human brain consists of about one billion neurons. Each neuron forms about 1,000 connections to other neurons, amounting to more than a trillion connections. If each neuron could only help store a single memory, running out of space would be a problem.
You might have only a few gigabytes of storage space, similar to the space in an iPod or a USB flash drive. Yet neurons combine so that each one helps with many memories at a time, exponentially increasing the brain’s memory storage capacity to something closer to around 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes). For comparison, if your brain worked like a digital video recorder in a television, 2.5 petabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years to use up all that storage.
So maybe the memorised codes aren’t using up as much space as originally presumed. But add names, phone numbers, addresses, birthdays, song lyrics, guitar chords, languages, board meetings, clothes sizes and shopping lists to the information stored and it is staggeringly impressive to acknowledge that they are all stored in the database behind our eyes.
No wonder I get so frustrated with my iPhone memory. Mine is storing much more.