Search Technology Replacing Brains

Are we out-sourcing brain-usage? Popping into my local Waterstones this afternoon after Ben Elton’s latest novel, I take a twirl around the shelves, don’t see it, so ask the lady on duty where I could find a copy.

I expected her to reply: ‘Over there’, or somesuch. Instead she tapped a few words into her computer and replied: “It’s in Fiction.” Well, maybe I look a lot more stupid than I am, but I had been to Fiction already. It reminded me of how, last week, I asked the lady receptionist at my Charleston hotel where the mall was. Instead of saying: ‘The third exit going north on i16’, she said: “I’ll print off the route directions on Mapquest.” Both the Waterstones lady, and the Charleston lady, had immediately assumed that the best place to access the information was from a computer database rather than their brains. I remember the huge burden that was taken off us in the 1970s when cheap, portable, electronic calculators meant that we never again had to undertake the arduous process of mental arithmetic. Now, maybe, the marvels of search technology will mean that we never have to remember anything at all. Could the day be coming when we could all be echoing the title of Alec Guinness’ autobiogaphy: ‘My name escapes me’?

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