Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Profiles of the Future: The Rest
I started reading Arthur C. Clarke's Profiles of the Future way back in 2003. I've finally gotten around to finishing it, and wanted to add in some comments to those I originally wrote on earlier chapters. So, here we go!
While he’s not making a prediction here, the following comment is amusing for probably self-evident reasons:
“We seldom encounter really impressive feats of memory these days, because there is little need for them in our world of books and documents.”
I wonder if he ever reflected on this in the Google era.
On the same page, and of interest for similar reasons:
“When we discover how the brain manages to filter and store the blizzard of impressions pouring into it during every second of our lives, we may gain conscious or artificial control of memory. It would no longer be an inefficient, hit-and-miss process; if you wanted to reread a page of a newspaper you had seen at a certain moment thirty years ago, you could do just that, bu stimulation of the proper brain cells.”
While it wouldn’t discount Mr. Clarke’s points about the vividness and completeness of recall that could be accomplished this way, I’ll be curious to see if the Tivo-ing of our lives through external monitoring (always on cameras, microphones, etc) will provide much the same experience (with handy multi-faceted search interface!) sooner than the level of vivid recall that he imagines. Of course if you could turn on perfect recall 10 years after perfect life Tivo-ing, then you still have the added advantage (on top of the deep immersion) of being able to go back to a time before technology was recording you. Nonetheless, we could have a lighter version of what Mr. Clarke imagines long before we get the full experience.
“Yet the mechanical educator – or some technique which performs similar functions – is such an urgent need that civilization cannot continue for many more decades without it. The knowledge in the world is doubling every ten years – and the rate itself increasing. Already, twenty years of schooling are insufficient; soon we will have died of old age before we have learned how to live, and our entire culture will have collapsed owing to its incomprehensible complexity.”
P 200 – 201
“It has already been demonstrated that the behavior of animals – and men – can be profoundly modified if minute electrical impulses are fed into certain regions of the cerebral cortex…Electronic possession of human robots controlled from a central broadcasting station is something that even George Orwell never thought of; but it may be technically possible long before 1984”
“The pilot of an aircraft, fathering data from his scores of dials and gauges…identifies himself with his vehicle, intellectually and perhaps even emotionally. One day, through telemetering devices, we may be able to do the same with any animal.”
It’s interesting that he doesn’t take the opportunity to apply the telemetering devices to the airplane itself as we have started doing in the last decade. Of course he may address this later (or did earlier, since it’s been a while since I’ve read the earlier part of the book), but it just struck me how directly he could have gotten there in this passage (despite that what he’s really talking about is connecting to the experiences of other animals directly in our brains).