Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"The Outsourced Brain"

Through Dave Snowden's blog, I found this interesting New York Times article "The Outsourced Brain."

David Brooks says:

  • The gurus seek bliss amidst mountaintop solitude and serenity in meditative trance, but I, a grasshopper, have achieved the oneness with the universe that is known as pure externalization. Like many men, I quickly established a romantic attachment to my G.P.S.
  • Through that experience I discovered the Sacred Order of the External Mind. I realized I could outsource those mental tasks I didn’t want to perform. Life is a math problem, and I had a calculator. Memory? I’ve externalized it. I am one of those baby boomers who are making this the “It’s on the Tip of My Tongue Decade.” But now I no longer need to have a memory, for I have Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia. Now if I need to know some fact about the world, I tap a few keys and reap the blessings of the external mind.

In a satirical way:

  • Until that moment, I thought that the magic of the information age was that it allowed us to know more, but then I realized the magic of the information age is that it allows us to know less. It provides us with external cognitive servants — silicon memory systems, collaborative online filters, consumer preference algorithms and networked knowledge. We can burden these servants and liberate ourselves.
  • The abandonment of our abilities for memory, recall, and individuality to the "connected world", to my mind, makes people handicapped in their thinking processes and emotional development - unless people develop the 7th, 8th, or nth sense of personal skills. I wonder what these skills are.

With our dependencies, do we develop better judgment? Wisdom? Ethics? Or how do we replace these capabilities?

This reminds me of what Neil Postman says, "Amusing Ourselves to Death" (1985).

Ray Jimenez, PhD
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"