Friday, February 22, 2013

Living in History (Part 2) - Fast Forward

A reader named JPR posted an excellent comment on the last post, so much so that I will expand the conversation here.

He wrote:

Your post raises an interesting question: how will one distinguish himself from others in the future, or excel in any intellectual way? You mentioned Jeopardy.  Ken Jennings was the most amazing human contestant ever, but he bowed before his new master Watson after a solid drubbing.  How does one “get into Harvard” in a world where everyone has Google and Watson built in?

Some individuals will still be able to stand out based on physical size, strength, and athleticism.  We realize now that the popular concept from the 1960’s, that we are going to physically evolve into soft creatures with large heads to hold our enormous brains, is erroneous.  Human nature will always prize health, athleticism, and physical beauty.  There will always be some iteration of Muhammed Ali or Michael Jordan for people to marvel at.  Men and women will be attracted to attractive mates.  Unless we deliberately alter this trait, I think we know it is hardwired into the human brain.

But it has been Da Vinci and Einstein, Caesar and Churchill, Ford and Jobs who have transformed the world, not Michael Phelps.

I don’t claim to have an answer.  Will it be creativity that cannot be programmed in?  Curiosity?  Mental stamina?  Competitiveness?  Aggression?

There is no doubt we are headed in the direction you describe.  We should embrace it, not resist it.  But the prospect does raise some primal fears of a sterile, humorless, and/or tyrannical dystopia where everyone is equal in ability, not just opportunity.

I think the answer is that knowledge isn't everything, it's a tool. It's kind of like when your teacher tells you it's an open-book test. I always knew to be leery because I couldn't ace it by just memorizing a bunch of stuff - all the facts would be accessible to all. It's what you did with the facts that counted.

To me, the future - Google in your head - will be like living an open-book test. Original thought, creativity, humor, not to mention hard work - all these things are still on you. Technology will serve to turbocharge the process.

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