Our extended brains

23 Oct

Yesterday while watching one of my favorite shows “Through the Wormhole” I came across an interesting concept about how our brains have most likely been saturated and how in order to continue to evolve and overcome this saturation we have created extensions of our minds (e.g.through the internet and smart mobile devices gateways) and built networks of knowledge and information to make more informed decisions. if you think about it, one of the primary functions of our brain is to acquire knowledge and act upon this knowledge by making a decision. The quality of our decision is mainly based on three factors – 1) the amount of information we accumulate 2) the quality of information we acquire and 3) our ability to comprehend this vast amount of information.

If we consider our health as an example, the quality of everyday decisions we make regarding our lifestyle and medical conditions can have a significant impact on our wellbeing. We are at a stage of evolution where we have access to vast amounts of information at our fingertips and we have our devices to accumulate this information. But does this mean we have a “bigger brain” to make high quality decisions? In the near future we may see applications with sophisticated algorithms that can also comprehend this information and spit out a “high quality decision”. For example, while buying a snack, your “extended brain” tells you that based on a lab test result you took a year ago and your behaviour over the past month, the likelihood of increasing your cholestrol over the threshold is much higher compared to an average person or based on a network of social chatter and patterns, the snack has been shown to not go well with a drink. What makes this usecase practically viable is when I don’t have to open, close, type, browse, log, etc. I just scan, the product and a 5 point summary is displayed with a recommendation. But here we won’t be able to avoid taking a decision completely. I would really hate it if my phone tells me I can’t eat a snicker bar or worse dosen’t allow me to purchase one! Also like our brains, our “extended brains” need to be used.

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