Be as witty as The Terminator…

Well Stocked Mind QuoteI recently ran across an interesting term called “Prosthetic Knowledge’.  We all know what prosthetics are–limbs, for example–but this is the first time I had thought about it combined with knowledge.  In a way, it has nearly always been true.  Humans have, for a long time, been able to access more knowledge than what they could simply carry around in their heads.  With the advent of the personal computer, then the internet, and now smart phones, the accessibility of this prosthetic knowledge has gone up tremendously.  For me, this brings up 2 questions–where is it going next, and are we getting any smarter, or are we just as stupid but quicker about it than before?

TechCrunch has an interesting article about The Law of Information Accessibility, which is essentially our increasing speed of access to our prosthetic knowledge.  We all know it is pretty fast now, as we can ask Siri about any trivia we don’t know off the top of our head and have the answer instantly (ask her what the movie “Inception” is about, for example).

To answer my first question above, where is it going, I think it is going to move from a screen on a device in our pocket to a transparent screen in front of our eyes.  Think of a pair of glasses that can also display information at the touch of a button.  In the industry, this is called a Augmented Reality Head Mounted Display, or AR HMD (as opposed to a Virtually Reality Head Mounted Display, or VR HMD, such as the Oculus Rift).  Google Glass was probably the most high-profile AR HMD, but it not only had serious technical shortcomings but it also violated the cardinal rule of new products, Build a Business Not a Product.  There are more companies & technologies flooding into this space now, though, and the technical hurdles will be overcome.  The trick is to figure out the “why” of using these glasses, as I wrote in my post.  Once there is an original use-case, a first “why” that is truly compelling, wider adoption will quickly follow.  I can imagine waiting for an Uber on a crowded San Francisco street, for example, with my glasses on reading Reddit, and then an overlay coming in with a big green arrow pointing downward over my upcoming driver as he cruises around a corner a block away and comes towards me.  Pretty cool.  I will write more about what I see as possible markets in future posts.  Specifically, I think displaying data from the Internet of Things (IoT) will start early in specialized markets and potentially be amazing (and maybe even a little scary).

The second question, however, is even trickier to answer.  The TechCrunch article is, in my opinion, perhaps overly optimistic using the title “Augmented Reality Will Make Us Smarter”.  I believe these “smart glasses” will certainly give us faster access to information, but I see very little evidence that this will make the average person smarter.  Right now we all have pretty fast access to huge amounts of information.  More than fast enough, for example, to do some research before typing in a comment on an article, responding to a Facebook post, or even sending out a tweet.  And yet, the ignorance displayed in so many of these venues is astounding.  It certainly seems to be true that you can lead a horse to water but cannot make him drink.

In another article on augmented reality I read a quote that I think is perfect:

Probably worth remembering that augmented instant access to information doesn’t equate with instant access to knowledge, as knowledge implies understanding

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