Instant lookup

Today I was reading an article that talked about espresso in a way that made me curious about the origins of espresso. Typing ‘espresso’ into Google took me to the Wikipedia page.

From there I learned that Angelo Mariando received an Italian patent for an early version of an espresso machine in 1884. Seventeen years later his invention was improved upon by Luigi Bezzera of Milan.

That patent was then purchased in 1905 by Desiderio Pavoni, and in 1906 La Pavoni became the first industrially manufactured espresso machine.

It occurs to me that at some point in the near future, through a combination of wearable technology and various applications of artificial intelligence, I will be able to acquire all that knowledge essentially in real time.

For example, suppose you and I are having a conversation about espresso, and I start to wonder where the underlying technology originated. I could easily pepper my conversation with some unobtrusive keywords, and combine those words with a few small hand gestures and eye movements to quickly look up the history of espresso.

By the time it is my turn to speak, I might already know the answer. I will then be able to use that knowledge in our conversation.

This won’t seem like some sort of magic power, since everyone else we know will be able to do the same sort of thing. Instant lookup will simply be normal, a aspect of everyday conversation that will be universally taken for granted.

It will be interesting to see what effect this will have on human discourse.

2 Responses to “Instant lookup”

  1. Ben Kanegson says:

    We may be part of a golden age, the last generation that was required to learn extensively by rote memorization and use of association and mnemonic devices. Even now, I am always amazed at the relatively new ability to look up any reference at any time with a hand held device. But still, I know how to commit bits of info to memory if need be.

    Once all recorded information is accessible in real time passively, the memory muscle will likely atrophy. Memory enhancement strategies will become obsolete.

    Heaven help us then if device loses power or there’s a network glitch.

  2. admin says:

    Your objection is certainly logical, but I could give a counter-argument. After all, doesn’t this same process happen with all such advances? Ancient poets needed to commit entire epics to memory. The fact that this is no longer necessary is not seen, by most modern humans, as tragic.

    We already live in a world in which a shut down of our service infrastructure can quickly plunge many areas into chaos and dysfunction. Yet we look at this as an acceptable price to pay for clean water, readily available electricity, access to public transportation, central air conditioning, modern washing machines, affordable fuel for our cars, functioning airports, in addition to our ever expanding digital information infrastructure.

    Once a civilization has acquired one of these superpowers, it quickly upgrades its definition of what constitutes an “acceptable” level of infrastructure. We accept the greater dependency, as a reasonable price to pay for the greater power.

    We do this as a matter of course as new technologies begin to pervade a culture, so we are used to these trade-offs. I don’t see why this one would be fundamentally different.

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