Posted by: shoji | October 26, 2007

David Brooks: The Outsourced Brain

I just ordered a GPS unit (Garmin Nuvi 360), and I can’t wait for the bliss that David Brooks describes in his NYT column, link below.

The bliss comes from “pure externalization”. In his words:

..I had thought that the magic of the information age was that it allowed us to know more, but then I realized the magic of the information age is that it allows us to know less. It provides us with external cognitive servants — silicon memory systems, collaborative online filters, consumer preference algorithms and networked knowledge. We can burden these servants and liberate ourselves.

And he’s right on the one hand: I don’t have to remember precise historical dates since I can just access the information from Google/Wikipedia.

But harnessing the external brain requires technical knowledge (if you don’t know what to look up, you can’t look it up) and societal input (Netflix,, Stumbleupon, etc., combine human inputs and preferences for other users).

GPS or not, I don’t see myself giving up maps. Devotees of GoogleEarth know what I’m talking about.

The Outsourced Brain – New York Times
I have melded my mind with the heavens, communed with the universal consciousness, and experienced the inner calm that externalization brings, and it all started because I bought a car with a G.P.S.

Like many men, I quickly established a romantic attachment to my G.P.S. I found comfort in her tranquil and slightly Anglophilic voice. I felt warm and safe following her thin blue line. More than once I experienced her mercy, for each of my transgressions would be greeted by nothing worse than a gentle, “Make a U-turn if possible.”


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