Quotable (#148)

Contemplating cognitive dependence:

Michael P. Lynch is a philosopher of truth. His fascinating new book, “The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data,” begins with a thought experiment: “Imagine a society where smartphones are miniaturized and hooked directly into a person’s brain.” As thought experiments go, this one isn’t much of a stretch. (“Eventually, you’ll have an implant,” Google’s Larry Page has promised, “where if you think about a fact it will just tell you the answer.”) Now imagine that, after living with these implants for generations, people grow to rely on them, to know what they know and forget how people used to learn — by observation, inquiry, and reason. Then picture this: overnight, an environmental disaster destroys so much of the planet’s electronic-communications grid that everyone’s implant crashes. It would be, Lynch says, as if the whole world had suddenly gone blind. There would be no immediate basis on which to establish the truth of a fact. No one would really know anything anymore, because no one would know how to know. I Google, therefore I am not. […] Lynch thinks we are frighteningly close to this point: blind to proof, no longer able to know. After all, we’re already no longer able to agree about how to know. …

3 thoughts on “Quotable (#148)

    • Why’s it a stretch when it’s clear external trauma can damage memories or make them inaccessible? If gross trauma can do that then finely tuned (scientific) trauma can attach external components to the memory regions of the brain. Certainly the Alzheimers patients and families will be clamoring for that.

  1. hmm, when was the golden age where this “we’re already no longer able to agree about how to know” wasn’t so?
    was working with some mapping folks who were wrestling with how drivers who have depended on gps/car-programs were more or less dis-oriented (in the way a passenger generally doesn’t attend to how they got somewhere) when the gps was turned off and so there is some question of loss of skilled-attention at play/risk.

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