The popularity of Sherlock Holmes who was born more than a century ago endures the next wave. The new series shot by the BBC have brought an image of the famous detective to the new level — a story about Sherlock and Doctor Watson are developed in the modern world now.
But it is not the first boom connected with a name of the fictional genius of deduction. From the moment of the first emergence of stories about Sherlock Holmes to this day, people from around the world write him letters, sending them to the address Baker Street 221B. The house where the doctor and the detective lived, is so known that the International society of Sherlock Holmes has got it and has founded the museum of a name of the great detective there.
That unpredictable man who gathers everyone to BBC’s channel to be amazed again and again by his fascinating deduction and memory is not that talented as you might think. Sherlock Holmes’ incredible memory store is not a gift, but a well-trained machine, which holds only useful information as Sherlock says. And it is difficult to deny because he might even forget unimportant fact for him that the Earth circles the Sun. However, his skill for a mnemonic device called the method of loci.
The most complexed thing that people discovered is the human brain. It is even shameful when we call or compare it to a machine because no machine in the world can hold as much data as this creature. Typical person’s non-typical brain can hold 2.5 petabytes or 1 million gigabytes of information. And the fact, that it is not still discovered completely, makes it more charming. Here comes a question: how to efficiently use this whole capacity, because we cannot memorize even page of exam list?
The method of loci – “loci” comes from Latin word placing, is memorizing by connecting items to very well-known places for a person, to recall them quickly just by visualizing this place. The method of loci is also known as the art of memory, memory journey or mind palace. It is based on assumption that you can best remember things when you relate them to place which you know very well, as your home, so location will serve as a clue to remember.
According to myth, it comes from Greeks, when the paper was expensive, and reading was highly frowned upon, they were trying to remember 30 minutes speech to make an impression on people and to be respected by them. Lately, it was widely used by Romans and came to our times, where a paper is cheap, PowerPoint is everywhere, but still giving a speech from memory without referring to notes is more impressing than reading it. Given the history, it is a little bit surprising that author Arthur Conan Doyle never noted it as a technique, but claimed his character’s feature as a well-organized “brain attic”.
Reading books and watching movies about Sherlock, we first don’t understand at all on what observations his logical chains how he conducts the investigation are based and solves the crimes. And all because Sherlock is an extremely mysterious person who tells about the methods only after the crime is revealed. After his explanations it all seems so easily and simply — but why we haven’t guessed before? In a deductive method, there is no mysticism, it is based only on the facts. And one of the elements of the deductive theory is mind palace.
This mind palace technique was also noticed in films and TV shows like Criminal Minds, Doctor Who, Leverage, The Mentalist where this memorizing method being used as the main tool in discovering crimes, recognizing criminals along with others. At least, that is how Sherlock does it. Sherlock who refuses to live in Google-able world might be a hero of our times. The internet is a great rememberer, and so we love a hero who has so over-filled his memory that important information flows out the sides. His brain was like an internet, but the feature is holding only useful information. If the most glorious moments were when he remembers even the smallest details of person’s outfit and by it establishes the identity of that person, the most delightful is when he forgets who is prime minister is or his trousers. His name, in fact, is a synonym of logic, deduction, the detective, and investigation. At the same time and to his methods by which Sherlock Holmes came to so exact conclusions.
Most people, when they organize memory palace, choose places like their home. But when viewers look inside of Holmes’ place in ‘His Last Vow’ episode, they notice something a bit different. From the very first episode, it was clear that Holmes’ mind does not work like everyone else’s. For example, in the first meeting with Watson, he automatically analyses him and tells everything about doctor Watson starting from his last job and his marital status. His deduction in combination with memory palace crates incredible tools in detective’s work.
As we can see, in Sherlock Holmes’ methods there are no miracles. At certain efforts, any person endowed with inquisitive mind and patience can approach the idol — to become more attentive, educated, persistent and bright.