The game of consequences

Simulated reality Science fiction is all about asking “what if?”. Singularitarian blogger Melanie Swann has come up with a hefty crop of questions that are as yet largely unasked by the authors who have chosen to write about post-Singularity societies:

“It could be interesting to look at how society redesigns and reorganizes itself in an upload world. Different subgroups may edit their utility functions in different ways. What are the reproduction norms? Do types of gender proliferate? Which memeplexes would arise and predominate? In the Post-Scarcity Economy, what will be societal organizing factors?”

Speculating slightly less far into the future (and, one assumes, with tongue more firmly in cheek), io9 wonders what the pros and cons would be of having a “Google implant” fitted to your brain:

“PRO: Ability to “remember” many details about a person or issue in the middle of a conversation, so that you can marshal facts quickly and check the accuracy of what other people are saying.

CON: The person you’re talking to could much more easily pretend to be somebody they are not by googling information and feigning expertise.”

That last one wouldn’t be so much of a CON as long as I had that ability too … which I would never use for nefarious purposes, naturally. Ahem. [Image by Felipe Venâncio]

But it raises another question – what place will expertise (as defined by memorised knowledge relating to a particular field of interest) have in a world of ubiquitous computing? Think Phil Dick’s “Variable Man”, but displaced into a knowledge economy …

4 thoughts on “The game of consequences”

  1. I think the idea of a Google implant would be an interesting one however when it comes down to what place expertise would have within the near world, I feel it would still be highly sought after. Even having such a vast quantity of information at a persons disposal would not mean that they actually contain the capacity to a) full appreciate it, b) recall it on a sufficient timescale c)actually have enough background knowledge to use it. I feel experience would still be the mother of all learning tools. For instance I could learn a great deal about science and engineering from Google however being able to simply search for it will not necessarily teach me to utilise this information to its maximum use or to think outside of the given information. God knows how many times I’ve looked up how to do stuff online such as baking, wiring and construction and still managed to make a pig’s ear out of it.
    Overall certain areas of expertise will definitely be reduced in value, however others I feel will still be greatly valued as the process of learning not only teaches information but also a given mindset and background to utilise the information and it is this that I feel will separate an expert to a Googlist.

  2. Whatever else happens, we’d be even more screwed when the Apocalypse comes and that implant goes down. No one will remember how to even tie their shoes.

  3. As far as a ‘Google implant’ type scenario goes, most end-users would probably only use it for really basic things like remembering ‘to-do lists’ or birthdays or the names of their customer’s kids. Most people can’t handle the information flow of today’s internet. Unless you enhance their brain’s capacity for processing all this data the uses will be relatively limited in society at large. First and early adopter uber-geeks will push the envelope, of course. This, I suppose, is where the really interesting applications will develop.
    I can also see a backlash movement touting ‘offline etiquette’ as a proper way to interact. In this scenario, tell-tale signs of Brain-Googling would be seen as crass and uncouth. “I was at this party, and this creepy guy was googling me.” “That’s just so wrong.”

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