Tuesday 22 February 2011


2018. Google Brain Implant Spells Death of Pub Quiz.

Tim Bentinck © 2011

A child born after 2000 has no concept of what the world was like pre-Google. Not so much pre-computer, but specifically pre- the instant ability to find the answer to almost any factual question, almost without thinking about it. No-one’s thick or bright any more - you just dip your head to the screen, tap it a few times, and there’s the answer. The need for learning has passed. The accumulation of knowledge, that has been the driving force of civilisation throughout its history has been made redundant, because everybody knows everything.

And in 2018, at the present rate of progress, Moore’s Law[1] dictates that we will have a brain implant that we communicate with by thought alone and that answers us as a soft sound in our ear and an image on our retina, and is permanently hooked up to the net, and, because it’s Google Plus v.6.5, it doesn’t give us a choice, but finds the most pertinent, the most interesting, the cheapest, the best, the most profitable – for you. Because it knows you. It knows all about you.

And if this becomes so, which it must do, what then? What value school? What value learning? What would be the point in cramming facts into young heads? Why should we ‘know’ anything? An exam question that demanded knowledge would be pointless. The very word ‘knowledge’ would cease to have any meaning. Is this the end of education?

Well I hope not, and I don’t think so, but it is absolutely certain that education will have to change to take all this into account. It does mean that everything will be different. The fundamental problem though is that this database knowledge, this accessed knowledge, this ‘ask and you shall get’ thinking is passive. It is only found when asked. It does not reside in your memory when you make decisions, it does not inform your choices based on things you know.

But if the eleven-year-olds growing up like this in the next decade learn as well from the questions they ask their implanted selves as my generation did from reading books and listening to teachers, is there really much difference, as long as they remember what they find? The job of the teacher will be to give a structure to this ‘self-learning’, to give a strong outline of the reference points of every subject and let the student find the facts and figures by themselves. Making relationships between facts will be the key, and whether, given that power, they’ll bother to remember it.

When a University student, lying on their back in the park with their eyes closed, might be editing a movie, reading a book, writing a novel, finishing a spreadsheet, socialising, paying a parking fine or having sex, and doesn’t understand the concept of what life was like before that, we have entered a different world where the only role a teacher can play is that of the inculcator and organiser, the one who tells them what questions they should be asking, from birth.

If this is not a meme in 2011, it will be soon.

[1] The number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years

Isoworg Speech

Just to finish off this whole re-appraisal of my father's book, here he is giving a speech to punlicise the book in Trafalgar Square on July 18th 1971. In order to create publicity for the novel, he 'invented' the International Society for World Government and attracted three hippies and a few passing tourists, oh and a nutter.

His speech lasted half an hour and I recently found a recording of it on reel to reel tape and transcribed it. It's my Pa. Highly articulate, persuasive and way ahead of his time. The World Government he describes could be the EU today. The latter half of is spech is what he was really about though. He warns of the coming ecological disaster and is so correct when he predicts that the message of people like him, seen in 1971 as green fringe nutcase, would come to be seen as mainstream orthodoxy and people who deny it would be seen as 'the enemy'.

As I say, it's half an hour long, but worth a listen. The first 15 seconds or so are distorted, while the recordist plugs the mike in, but after that it's pretty clear.

It's a good name anyway, so I've renamed my web design service after it.