Another Step Closer to The Matrix

This has been sitting in my bookmarks till I just noticed it today. Oops!

From Gizmodo:

[A] group of scientists lead by Dr. Theodore Berger […] have built a prosthetic chip that uses electrodes to enhance and expand their memory abilities. The chip is capable of storing neural signals, basically functioning as an electronic memory, allowing rats to learn more and keep it in the devices.

“Flip the switch on, and the rats remember. Flip it off, and the rats forget [...] These integrated experimental modeling studies show for the first time that with sufficient information about the neural coding of memories, a neural prosthesis capable of real-time identification and manipulation of the encoding process can restore and even enhance cognitive mnemonic processes.”

I will admit that one of my first thoughts was, “If publishers hate the idea of perpetual access of digital content to libraries, then they are really going to hate this.” Granted, this is a microchip that remembers how to perform a skill, not re-live an experience. We are more on The Matrix end of crazy brain interface technology rather than the Strange Days “watch and feel it through someone else’s eyes” neural interface. There is also certainly a good argument for someone experiencing the book for themselves rather than using someone else’s, but that’s something much further down the line.

In looking at the ascent of Ebooks, I’m wondering if something like this “infochip” (my term for purposes of this thought exercise) would follow a similar pattern. It starts with the people who can afford the device and the infochips; an affluent group of early adopters since I suspect this will not premiere at around $400 like the Kindle did. Eventually, the price of the equipment and infochips comes down for the middle group of adopters, thus reaching a tipping point for use, cost, and acceptance.

Certainly, the bigger conversations are not around the technology itself, but the implications of the information ownership, sharing, and dissemination. Will there be a tension between companies wanting to sell you how to change your oil or recite Shakespeare and the internet that will seek to copy, share, and torrent this same knowledge for free? It might just result in an incredible showdown between the rapidly expanding sharing portion of society versus the content creators (both individual and corporate). Who can say what the price of a skill or an experience would cost? Who has ultimate control over it?

What do you think?

(Please, please, please don’t think of this as a question about the future of libraries and librarians. I think that would be rather limiting in light of the possibilities present here.)

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