Humans are competitive beings. They are biologically engineered to argue, and through argument, reach the most effective conclusion. Google has stolen our right to ignorantly argue in a misguided effort to "organize the world's information." Every argument is now a Google search away from being finished.
While obviously tongue-in-cheek, this raises a serious question: What happens when they get there?
We are creating a society where historical knowledge and even real-time happenings are consumable on tap. Think about how your consumption of data has completely changed in only the last decade:
· You can't get lost. You walk with your phone's map app streaming directions.
· You don't stumble into a restaurant. You check Yelp first, and make reservations on OpenTable.
· You can recall less than 10% of the phone numbers in your phone (if you remember more than 10%, you either have an incredible memory, or need more friends).
· You don't need to memorize anything.
After 50,000 years of stored intelligence being a primary differentiator between man and lesser animals, we are within 100 years of no longer valuing the most basic form of human intelligence: memory.
We have spent the last 500 years celebrating memorization of facts in classrooms around the world. Yet, it is painfully obvious that the Internet has orders of magnitude more information than we could ever hope to remember.
We can now retrieve that information instantly on wireless devices, no matter where we are. In a world of mobile computing and wearable computing, we don't have to remember.
Are we rendering ourselves irrelevant?
Humans are intelligent beings. Despite what you may reasonably conclude if you watch Jerry Springer or hear Carl Paladino speak out loud, we are one of the very few animals on the planet capable of passing Gallup's Mirror Test.
What's the value of human memory in a world where all information is available? Is it relegated to purely personal experiences?
Are there even truly personal experiences in a world where everything is recorded?
The Post-Memory Era
It is not merely memorization of facts that no longer matters. Sense of direction is no longer valuable, recognition of faces and names no longer matters, and historical knowledge is irrelevant.
What is the purpose of a human brain in this context?
The answer, I believe, lies with the three fundamental facets of intelligence: input, retention, and processing. While input, and thereby retention, will cease to be differentiators, there is one place where humans will continue to add immense value: non-linear processing.
We excel at analyzing information in unique and non-obvious ways to reach interesting conclusions. This is the root of all innovation.
Every great entrepreneur in history existed because he or she saw the world differently. He saw opportunity where others saw problems. He saw a chance for change, for breaking down walls, and sometimes, for revolution.
Publishing, more than any time in the history of civilization, needs great entrepreneurs.
We need entrepreneurs to help us sift through the mountains of data available at our fingertips. Help us visualize it. Help us see the world differently. Help us make those non-obvious connections.
As the world devalues memory, it will crave unique perspectives more than ever.