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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]

Merlin's picture

This is seemingly akin to a

This is seemingly akin to a “just-in-time” supply chain

I totally agree. It's also very "liberal arts" in the sense of encouraging you to start with a strong and broad base of basic knowledge (rather than obsessing over knowing everything in one vocation). That way you learn where to look and within which relevant kingdom of knowledge.

Democratized access to information that used to require the intellectual equivalent of a priest is a great thing, AFAIC.

That said, if I'm going to have devices remember my phone number for me, I better start doing more sudokus to keep my brain nimble.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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