Ashley Kalagian Blunt appears to have thought this through a bit more than I have. Her piece at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency sets out a couple of caveats about this service.

I’m not so sure. I think the cost argument will be resolved pretty quickly via competitive services, so I’m not too worried about being bankrupted by having all the books in the world streamed into a receptor in my brain. Also, what I’m intent on is not some artificial receptor implant, but the real thing: world literature available in whatever area of your brain it is that world literature turns out to inhabit, permanently, and automatically translated on the fly. I am confident that neuroscientists are working feverishly to identify where in the brain this memory should be sited. Can we doubt that they will ultimately be successful?

The point about how we process this information is perhaps more significant. If everything is there simultaneously, how do we select which entry point we really want? Sounds like that might turn out to be the big problem. Still maybe if we can identify the world literature brain module we will also succeed in identifying the curation and indexing module too. Let’s live in hope.

Of course we should perhaps move beyond all this almost analog view of brain function, and accept that we have now reached the point of brain extension rather than brain development. Socrates was proved wrong (wasn’t he?) in his concerns that writing stuff down carried the risk of our not being able to remember anything, so we should stride bravely forward adding “memory” to our memory by the use of digital devices. That well-muscled iPhone adds so much functionality to your little brain. We’ve gotten used to never having to do sums — our calculators do them for us. I suggested recently that spelling was going down the same road. You now don’t need to be ignorant of anything: that brain extender in your pocket (which you also use to contact friends) enables you to remember everything and recall it at ease without the need to scratch your head. (Your flying fingers are too busy with the keyboard anyway.)

The iPhone is like a massive back-up hard drive for your brain. Maybe this is the way we should aim to handle that world literature download scenario. But stop: we already do. Our pockets are getting full; do we have to lug the Kindle around too? Maybe it is back to that receptor implant, but maybe it’ll be more like a tiny iWatch (Apple Watch really, rather prosaically), and doesn’t of course require implanting in the brain. Just within hailing distance.