What is the memory capacity of the human brain?
In a 2010 article published in Scientific American by Paul Reber, Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University, in trying to answer this question, postulates that "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."
If you're like me, this suggested storage capacity of the human brain is almost impossible to fathom. But let's for the sake of argument accept this to be true and the capacity of the brain to retain information is gigantic.
If we tap into a 10th of every person's storage capacity, you must agree that humans as a species have the ability to generate new knowledge and ideas, based on our ability to store information, to do almost anything we apply our minds to!
So if this is at least plausible, can I ask why we underestimate ourselves so much? Why do we believe we have limits to our ability to change our environment, generate new ideas and challenge conventional thinking? And as educators, do you realize that by placing limitations on your own ability to influence young minds, you limit the possibilities you have to awaken the spirit of discovery of our hundreds of thousands of learners sitting in our classrooms in the Western Cape each day waiting to be challenged, to learn new things, to be stretched and to address their need for inquiry? Or do you think this is beyond you? And if you do think this is beyond you, what are you doing in our classrooms every day?
Please look around you. The world needs innovation, critical minds and creative thinkers to address the many demands to keep our world moving forward. We have huge challenges as a species to maintain our environment and to sustain our quality of life over the next 100 years or to discover new ways to ensure we continue to exist on another planet or in another Galaxy. And fundamental to this crusade, is your engagement as an educator with our children. Because whether you want to hear this or not, the future belongs to them not us.