Thursday, August 11, 2011

Resistance is futile . . .

My hero, Albert Einstein once said, “Never memorize something you can look up.” I don’t think Al had any idea how prophetic that quote would be.

A recent study was released from Columbia University that added to the growing body of evidence that the Internet is changing how we think. The most recent study shows that people are more likely to remember things they do not think they can find using a computer and vice versa. In addition, they found that people are better at remembering where to look for information on the Internet than they are remembering the information itself. Some are calling this the Google Effect.

Now, where was I going with this ...? Oh yeah, the study concluded that we are slowly offloading some of our memory demand onto machines. I wonder if future historians will look back at the pre-Google era as the Dark Ages of knowledge dissemination? Are we witnessing a monumental breakthrough akin to moveable type or just another way for kids to cheat on book reports?

Being as immersed as I am in the world of computing, I have noticed profound effects that the computing world has had on my brain. For instance, I spend way too much time on websites devoted to user-generated “demotivational” posters. These are the hilarious opposite of those dreamy motivational posters you see in some offices. Just the other day, I was waiting to meet my son at “Five Guys Burgers and Fries.” As I was standing there, this really large guy rolled into the restaurant. I immediately imagined this guy framed in a demotivational poster that read, “THIS GUY Needs a Double Bacon Cheeseburger!” I find myself doing more and more often. The cool thing is that I can more easily remember stuff if I frame it in a demotivational poster..

When I was a child, I knew all my friends phone numbers by heart. But now, with all my contacts on my phone, I hardly know my own phone number. I often find myself generating Facebook updates in my head that I never publish. For example, while working in my yard I have found myself posting a mental Facebook status that reads, “Jim: Is digging a hole to China” or “Jim is shopping for toys at Lowes.” Again, the cool thing is that I tend to remember things a little better when I post those to my brain’s own Facebook page.

As computers get smaller and smaller and more an more ubiquitous, I am convinced that we will have computers embedded in our bodies in the near future. Perhaps we will have smart contact lenses that beam information directly to our retina. Perhaps a hearing aid that will converse with us. Perhaps a microchip implanted directly in our cerebellum that will enhance thinking power. Are you ready for that kind of technology? I don’t think it matters if you are ready or not. A Star Trek quote comes to mind: “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”

No comments: