If Ray Kurzweil says it’s possible who am I to disagree? Cathy O’Neil’s piece at Bloomberg.com reports on an interview of Kurzweil by Neil deGrasse Tyson in which the claim is made that books may well one day be directly uploaded to your brain via some tricky nano-bots floating around in your bloodstream.

But I’m not sure the examples given are the right ones. Uploading The Brothers Karamazov or War and Peace directly to your brain would of course save a lot of reading time — but then so too would not starting them in the first place. Is what we get from these books, or any novel, the sort of thing that would be provided by the entire text suddenly appearing in your mind? One has to assume that the entire text would be instantly and completely available to you upon upload, something which is not my experience with the conventional method of upload, reading. By the time you’ve reached chapter 100 you may hate that character you loved at the start, and you may now be a little hazy about what went on in chapter 2. If it was an important thing this might necessitate a refresher return to the beginning. Nothing wrong with this: it’s just how it is, and is part of the pleasure of reading. Our minds cannot remember everything all of the time, and our attitude towards people develops as we get to know them better, or indeed as we see more or less of them. As you read through a book you develop expectations, hopes and fears concerning the characters and the events to which they are exposed. A nano-robotic one-off upload would bypass all this and leave you with the whole thing, just sitting there. With any story it’s more about the journey than it is about the arrival.

Now if direct upload isn’t the way we want to interact with fiction, it may well be better suited to things like The Driver’s Handbook, The Elements of Electronics, How to Win at Poker, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plumbing Repair, Sibley’s Guide to Birds. Just imagine living with someone who had ingested the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. Talk about a know-it-all — though we probably wouldn’t, because by then knowing everything would no doubt be boringly commonplace.

Link via The Digital Reader.

See also Direct to consumer

Advertisements