Presenting the BBC Radio 2 traffic bulletin, Sally Boazman reported delays on the road between Brackley and Brackley. Realizing this must be an error, the presenter corrected it by saying that there were delays on the road between “Brackley and somewhere else.” Johnny Walker commented on how precise the information was and Sally Boazman suggested that, like a computer drive needs defragmentation from time to time, she needed a “defrag” facility for her brain. Johnny Walker thought the brain was perhaps like a bucket that becomes full and can contain no more, that perhaps a hole needed to be drilled in the bottom to allow some information out and create space for new material.
The exchange recalled an episode of The Simpsons where Marge suggested to Homer that he might take an adult education course, and Homer responds (as only Homer could), “Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home wine-making course and I forgot how to drive?” Ever rational and sensible, Marge explains, “that’s because you were drunk,” but Homer does not want to be dissuaded from his view.
Neuroscience does suggest that there is substance in Homer’s remark, that remembering one thing can cause the forgetting of others. In which case, perhaps Johnny Walker’s answer is appropriate and that the answer to forgetting things is to let some memories out of the system. But Sally Boazman’s suggestion seems far more interesting. Imagine if there was the possibility of doing a defragmentation of the brain, imagine if all the stuff could be put in the proper files and be properly indexed so that all the data could be retrieved when it was needed.
Lots of everyday experiences could be avoided if we could defragment our brains. No longer would there be the embarrassment of only remembering someone’s name when they are thirty seconds down the street. No longer would there be the frustration of recalling the answers to examination questions just after you have left the exam hall. No longer would there be those disagreement among family members about which among divergent views was actually the correct version of what happened at a particular time or place. No longer would phone calls be remembered when it was too late to respond. The implications for everyday life would be immense; family life, friendships, schooldays, workplaces, everything would be changed.
The degfragmentation system could be called Brackley.