Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Rest Of My Brain (part 1)

Silicon Picks Up Where Gray Matter Leaves Off

In decades past, we all admired that one friend who had an amazing array of facts at ready recall. It seems to me that that's a little less impressive today. We all have easy access to a limitless supply of facts, if not wisdom ... we get those facts any time, anywhere, on the Internet. Some of them might not be accurate, you say? That's okay. I was never sure about all those facts that impressive friend was always talking about. The point though, is that quick research on any topic is as nearby as Google, Wikipedia, and IMDB.

I don't have to remember anybody's address, phone number, or even the names of their kids. I have an address book application on my computer. 

I don't have to know my "times tables" as long as I have a calculator handy. And of course I always do, since it's built into my smartphone (which is never far from my hand).

Every journal paper, every blog post, every email message I've ever written could be stored together and still fit on a cheap USB thumb drive looped onto a key ring, ready to be searched.

The point is that technology has extended and partially externalized our brains. No matter how smart you are, I'd wager that you are more effective when you have your preferred technology tools at the ready.

Is this really all that different than tools and machines extending your physical abilities? Is it different from a shovel helping you to dig a hole faster or a bike helping you to cover distance faster and more easily? I'm not sure, but in my experience most people think of it as being different.

Will this trend of externalizing your brain continue? Is it a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing?

I have a feeling that I may have more to say on this, especially if some of you tell me that you like this topic. So I'm calling this the end of part 1.

Thanks for reading! A blog works best with active participation. If you enjoy this blog, please give it a +1 and leave a comment. Share it on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook. More readers will drive more discussion.


  1. I find this topic fascinating: my first husband had 'eidetic memory', and was very impressive to people. He literally snapshotted everything he ever read and had immediate access to it. Living with that pre-computer was a remarkable thing, and definitely not so remarkable nowadays. To me, there is still the challenge of immediate access to exactly what you need, but 'The Google' has impressively solved most of that too.

    I think the technology has leveled most of the playing field regarding 'book smart', and that is a wonderful thing. The smartest are those who makes the connections between two facts, making them relevant and valuable. Therefore, 'idea people' are the ones of greatest and most lasting value: the artists, the 'creative' thinkers. I remain in awe of great minds who see something that no one else has yet seen.

  2. I think you're touching on what will be the third revolution.

    The first, of course, was computer technology: mainframes, then PCs/Macs, then all these other personal devices like smart phones. The second revolution was, of course, the internet, with global information sharing and global computing.

    But IMHO, the third revolution will happen when there are breakthroughs in brain/computer interfacing. There are some early steps, such as simple neural connections helping blind people see at incredibly awful resolutions, but SEE nonetheless.

    If, and probably when, a mouse can be replaced with a device that somehow connects to your brain - physically - without causing horrendous infections or migraines, and for about $24.95, THAT will be a breakthrough. Because after mice, keyboards will become obsolete shortly afterwards. And then I think acceleration will happen, as technologists and users figure out how to optimize the thought-as-input drivers...

    You won't even need to take your iPhone out of your pocket, to browse the web, or converse in a phone call.

    Not to mention replacing displays/monitors someday. Imagine a switch in the back of your head to toggle input to your visual cortex between "eyes" and "digital". (Being able to see both would be ideal, of course, but we'd have to figure out how to jam extra VRAM into our skulls. :-)

  3. Sure hope it helps those of us with 'names' deficits...some sort of handy app that whispers the person's name at just the right moment.