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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The future prospects for human memory

The other day someone asked me about the potential impact that the internet will have on mankind in the coming decades. Already, at even this early stage, the internet has largely eliminated the need for people to spend time memorizing information. As illustrated in the film "National Treasure" the star's almost super human memory merely enables him to be one step ahead of the villain. The villain remains very much in sight of the hero simply by using Yahoo to search for "stow declaration of independence", if I remember correctly. I used the same search phrase on Google, my personal search engine of choice, and can confirm that the number one rated result was indeed the answer to the riddle in question.

With the emerging ubiquity of internet access and its inevitable inclusion into "Augmented Reality" (AR) devices it seems as if there is a very real possibility that humans will soon have to modify their entire basis for assimilation of knowledge. Rather than spending time memorizing facts humans may find it more efficient to memorize more general concepts, concepts which provide just enough information to facilitate a person finding a fact but no more than that.

This leads me to wonder if perhaps Ray Kurzweil's "Singluarity", the idea that there will be a time where Artificial Intelligence (AI) will surpass human intelligence at which point the future of the human race will be uncertain, may well be unfounded. Kurzweil postulates that there is an event horizon, at the point of AI surpassing human intelligence, which we cannot see beyond nor return from the brink of. The crossing of this event horizon will result in drastic consequences for the human race, although whether these effects will be beneficial or catastrophic is impossible to predict in advance.

Perhaps AI will not take the form that it is so often portrayed as taking in science fiction. Perhaps AI will take the form of a human with an intelligence supplemented by some form of AR. Having just said that I wonder if this future AR human hybrid may finally be capable of creating AI in the traditional sense, so perhaps AR is merely a step on the path to Kurzweil's AI "Singularity".

In conclusion, I would say that clearly the future will be very different as a result of the combination of AR and ubiquitous Internet access. I'm not sure if you would call this new development part of the Silicon Age or if perhaps we are now on the verge of entering a new age; perhaps you could call this new era the Augmented Reality Age.

Have you found that your memory is suffering through the use of the internet?

It certainly makes you think, if you have any other ideas please leave a comment or email your question, which you'd like me to answer for free, to Ben Dash at


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ben
I am a retd Psychiatrist, an Analyst, I am also a Secular Sufi Master and a Transhumanist
I am sure,we are entering a new cosmic phase or from 3rd to 5th dimension. My only worry is the "Gap" between the rich and the poor. Even at the Pearly Gate, the money can buy anything. I want equality before the big change. I am sure, man is not goibg to disappear, he is just a new arrival!
Dr Shek

6:07 PM  

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