Posted by: crudbasher | January 15, 2014

A Profound Thought About How Amazing Smartphones Are

I don’t often quote a big chunk of articles but this one deserves it. Most of us don’t realize how profoundly smartphones have changed us. Well, check this out and see if it helps clarify it.

H/T The New Yorker

“A well-educated time traveler from 1914 enters a room divided in half by a curtain. A scientist tells him that his task is to ascertain the intelligence of whoever is on the other side of the curtain by asking whatever questions he pleases.

The traveler’s queries are answered by a voice with an accent that he does not recognize (twenty-first-century American English). The woman on the other side of the curtain has an extraordinary memory. She can, without much delay, recite any passage from the Bible or Shakespeare. Her arithmetic skills are astonishing—difficult problems are solved in seconds. She is also able to speak many foreign languages, though her pronunciation is odd. Most impressive, perhaps, is her ability to describe almost any part of the Earth in great detail, as though she is viewing it from the sky. She is also proficient at connecting seemingly random concepts, and when the traveler asks her a question like “How can God be both good and omnipotent?” she can provide complex theoretical answers.

Based on this modified Turing test, our time traveler would conclude that, in the past century, the human race achieved a new level of superintelligence. Using lingo unavailable in 1914, (it was coined later by John von Neumann) he might conclude that the human race had reached a “singularity”—a point where it had gained an intelligence beyond the understanding of the 1914 mind.

The woman behind the curtain, is, of course, just one of us. That is to say, she is a regular human who has augmented her brain using two tools: her mobile phone and a connection to the Internet and, thus, to Web sites like Wikipedia, Google Maps, and Quora. To us, she is unremarkable, but to the man she is astonishing.”

This is the extended mind I have written about in the past. Of course everyday, students in classrooms all across the US are told to put their phones away. Something has to change here.

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