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David Brooks on his "Outsourced Brain"

The Outsourced Brain

NYT's David Brooks on outsourcing memory, reference, and decision-making to things that theoretically do it better:

I have relinquished control over my decisions to the universal mind. I have fused with the knowledge of the cybersphere, and entered the bliss of a higher metaphysic. As John Steinbeck nearly wrote, a fella ain’t got a mind of his own, just a little piece of the big mind — one mind that belongs to everybody. Then it don’t matter, Ma. I’ll be everywhere, around in the dark. Wherever there is a network, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a TiVo machine making a sitcom recommendation based on past preferences, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a Times reader selecting articles based on the most e-mailed list, I’ll be there.

And, ironically enough, if you didn't catch the Grapes of Wrath reference, it's easy enough to find it. Because, if you're like me, sometimes you also outsource your pop culture knowledge to Google, Wikipedia, and IMDB.

As for Brooks' opening anecdote -- using a GPS? A life-saver for me. Ever since moving from a state where everything orients on a north-south grid to a place where diagonals and seemingly non-Euclidean intersections rule, I'd be literally lost without my Nüvi.

Previously (and mentioned in Brooks' piece): Clive Thompson on the downside of the outboard brain.

[via: rickroberts in the 43f forum]

shaug's picture

I wish you wouldn't have updated the spelling

And here I thought I had spotted a neologism. I read this piece in my reader this morning, and my first thought, uttered aloud, was, "But that's not irony, Mer... oh, wait...". In my cached copy, the word was spelled "ronically". I thought, "Wow, that's clever. Merlin just coined the term 'ronically' to mean 'appropriately'." I clicked on the post to leave a congratulatory comment, only to be disappointed to find it updated to 'ironically' on the site. Oh, well...

More on topic, I think we can apply other types of business strategy terminology to this phenomenon of 'brain outsourcing'. This is seemingly akin to a "just-in-time" supply chain. While our forefathers had to build up warehouses of knowledge in order to fulfill unforeseen information requests that may come at any moment, we can now go to our information suppliers as needed to streamline our workflow. While this strategy may reduce costs in terms of time and storage space, it means we're far less interesting guests at cocktail parties...




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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