August 18th, 2008

At work, Self portrait

To know or not to know - that's the new question

So I have access to a tool that makes a scientifically credible claim to burn knowledge into my brain with a 95% retention rate, basically until death or dementia takes me. My first thought was, of course, "nifty!". Then when I got it up and running, there are second thoughts. And these are: What do I really want to know if I'm still alive in 2050? (At which time I would be near my grandfather's age when he passed on.)

At once, I set upon the fiendish Japanese scripts. While I have picked up a limited vocabulary of spoken (or at least heard) Japanese, the written language is like a compact brick wall to hurt my head with. Well, we'll see about that now. If I have to review every little kana and kanji 7x70 times, so be it. English is my third language, and for some years now I read college-level English texts as comfortably as the average British or American adult, if not more so. I see no reason why I should not do the same with Japanese. Of course, I don't really see any reason why I SHOULD do it either, except "because I can". If the Japanese actually had anything important to say, would they not do so in English? Am I simply a stubborn, muleheaded male who wants to do something because it is difficult? Like the guys who keep us entertained by dying in the Himalayas trying to scale some mountain top where there is nothing of value to themselves or mankind.

That brings me to the second point: The immense flow of information that washes over us every day that we would pay to avoid remembering, if it were possible. Every time I start the MSN Live chat client, a page of popular culture stuff pops up. Celebrities, vacations and sex, the usual stuff. I get a fairly good impression of what humans are interested in during the five seconds or so before I close it. I am sure I could turn it off, but it serves as a reminder of where I could have been if not for God's grace and/or autist spectrum, the two being rather hard to tell apart in much of everyday life. Even so, I wonder: Are there people who really, honestly want to remember when and where celebrities did not wear their panties? The thing is, almost everything we see is *perishable* information, meant to be forgotten quickly.

If we want knowledge that does not rot in this world, we may have to resort to a physics textbook or the world's largest languages. And even then there may be the occasional surprise.

Perhaps our tendency toward teflon memory is, after all, the most intelligent design. But that won't stop me from taking up arms against time itself, once I have the tools.
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