← Spaced ossification

What if memory were a choice? Those dull words you have to memorize for classes could effortlessly stay in your head. Arguments from essays and books would never go forgotten again. Now folks, you, yes you, sitting at home must think I’m crazy, but it’s true!

This isn’t some far-flung invention of science fiction but an innovation of modern engineering genius: spaced repetition. For just a few minutes a day, you can remember anything. Dates, formulas, quotes. If you can make it a flashcard, we can make it a memory.

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The chalice offers me power.

“Come”, it beckons. “Give me your vocabulary and readings, and I promise you effortless grades.”

Surely the chalice whispers false promises to me, but nothing can go wrong with just a few innocent flashcards.

Q: What does DNA wrap around for compaction?
A: Histone

Q: What is a dead language?
A: A Language without native speakers.

In go a few flashcards and out come some tiny factoids which orbit my mental space. Perhaps the magical chalice wasn’t lying. With just the smallest sip, studying becomes second-nature. Rote memorization classes become rinse-and-repeat. Make flashcards, do spaced repetition, pass.

But as all myths of mystical power go, the chalice corrupts.

“Look how powerful I’ve made you. Why do you still insist on the smallest of sips?” it whispers.

I know I shouldn’t heed its Siren’s Song, but a little more wouldn’t hurt right? What if I just add a few habit cues? Some trigger action plans to help me work out more?

Q: You see stairs?
A: Stairs → Take them

Q: Get out of bed?
A: Bed → Put on running shoes

Q: Put on running shoes?
A: Running shoes → Head to gym

Once again, the chalice is truthful. Healthy habits become my default behavior. The fountain of youth hides forevermore at the edges of the human frontier, but this well of infinite memory resides on my homescreen.

Congratulations! You have finished this deck for now.

The chalice runs dry. By its very own nature of showing flashcards less and less frequently, there comes a day where no more cards are left.

No, there must be more I can do. Country capitals, jeopardy questions, duck anatomy. I download decks from other people in an effort to fill the chalice back up. It doesn’t matter whether I care or can use that knowledge, everything must go in. Nuanced arguments about Zeno’s Paradox, the definition of the word demijohn, or how to cook bacon to render out fat. The chalice empties ever quicker.

My knowledge becomes brittle. Key arguments from papers stay at the top of my mind while I make no novel discoveries. Words float around in a categorized jumble with no rhyme or reason. There is nothing left. No grand creation or substantial way I’ve helped others. Simply a chalice.

Beware weary traveler, as the chalice will curse you as easily as it gives you power. Like a large language model stuck repeating the lines it was trained on or a classroom of students taught to echo back textbooks, you’ll be hexed to forever regurgitate flashcards.

But what good are all these remembered facts if not to move the world? Cultivate your garden, create your art, and nourish the ember within. Don’t forget why you sought the chalice. For without the flame, the chalice shall be your end.