I had a moment today where I was acting like a net-head; I was using the Internet during real-time conversation to instantly learn about what I was talking about, as I was talking about it. Now, I’ve been programming computers since I was 7 years old, back when a 2400bps modem cost a fortune and phone lines were tied up all day dialing your favorite BBSes (Internet? What’s that?). But now, as the Internet grows and search algorithms get faster and more accurate, so is my brain’s ability to utilize these tools and integrate information from various disparate sources in real-time.
While the practice of integrating new information in real-time is nothing new, the sheer volume and speed of all the various interactions required to pull it off without pausing or sounding – uhhhh – like uhhhh – an idiot… that’s an entirely new realm for me. Talking, typing, reading, integrating new data, updating position based on new knowledge, iterating it verbally… it all flowed so smoothly that afterward I sat back in my chair and thought about London cab drivers and how they acquire “The Knowledge”.
When they start training, a cab drivers brain looks like any other normal person’s.
However, after the typical 2 years of training it takes to acquire “The Knowledge” and become a certified driver, the physical size of the hippocampus nearly doubles. No doubt the plasticity of my brain has been put to use, molding itself to better take advantage of the almost instantly available knowledge augmentation tools. I can easily see the day when brain implants become available to augment conversations and daily interactions in real-time.
Some people will obviously fear this kind of technology, but I think it will simply serve to further separate those who are able to leverage the technology to enrich their intelligence, from those who would simply use it to further cripple their cognitive abilities. People who know how to leverage technology to better themselves will reap the rewards, but most will undoubtedly reduce themselves to a gelatinous vaccum wherein critical life functions would probably cease should their Internet connections fail. So which type of person are you?
– Do you have to reach for a calculator (or a calculator app on your fancy phone) to simply add or subtract two numbers?
– Are you utterly incapable of finding your way in a new area without a GPS?
– Do you find it difficult to remember a short list of 5 things to buy at the grocery store after a 10 minute drive if you’ve not written it down or noted it somehow?
– When using spell check, do you take the time to note the correct spelling of the words it has caught for you, or do you just correct them and move on… destined to spell it incorrectly in your next communication?
Technology is great, but you should be better. Don’t let your tech outshine you, or we will all die at the hands of our robot overlords.