Stories were passed down orally, long before the invention of cuneiform, the quill, typewriter, or the keyboard. Thus, memorization was the main skill in reciting poems, news or teaching. Long after the inventions aforesaid mentioned, memorization was still seen as a helpful skill. At one point, it was used as an excellent studying technique; seeing as memorization engrained information into the brain.
This being said, my memorization skills have somewhat declined over the years. I can actively memorize important dates and my SSN. I can even remember every family member’s phone number, my old home number, and my friends’ from early childhood. However, I have not retained any new phone numbers, no matter how often I rewrite them, since entering high school. I met my best friend in ninth grade, and to this day I cannot recite her number– but I can for the pizza shop that we used to live near. Coincidentally, high school was also when I first got a smartphone. My iPhone has replaced many things, and it definitely has decreased my memorization skills.
Many technology fanatics view memorization as a waste of time and brain space. However, if there was a major storm, such as Hurricane Sandy, and your cell phone was dead, how would you call your family or friends with a home phone that doesn’t have an installed address book? People rarely use the phone book, and I don’t think calling 411 is even a thing anymore. The general population uses Google and White pages online to find numbers. I actually found this interesting blog post: http://buboblog.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-do-you-explain-phone-book-to-3-year.html, about explaining the concept of a phone book to a three year old.
In my opinion, memorization is important for subjects like biology and history, and a decline in memorization is not a good thing. The more I memorize concepts and cycles (in biology), the more information I retain. I make mnemonic phrases and use flashcards to this day to try to memorize and simply understand things. Maybe something as simple as memorizing is not a priority for most people in the twenty-first century, but it certainly should not be ignored and cast aside.