February 04, 2014

The Future Mental Olympics?

Patrick Marren

David Brooks has a column today about the effect computing technology might have on the sorts of intellectual skills humans will value in the future.

"We're clearly heading into an age of brilliant technology. Computers are already impressively good at guiding driverless cars and beating humans at chess and Jeopardy. ...[C]omputers are increasingly going to be able to perform important parts of even mostly cognitive jobs, like picking stocks, diagnosing diseases and granting parole. ...Having a great memory will probably be less valuable. Being able to be a straight-A student will be less valuable; gathering masses of information and regurgitating it back on tests."

Pre-industrial age Dave Brooks might have written, "We're clearly heading into an age of super-strong, super-fast technology. Machines are already better at moving big rocks and killing animals and beating John Henry at driving spikes." 

Yet, if anything, we revere physical strength and speed today more than ever.

Will we be as fascinated by human computational and memory ability in 2200 the way we follow, say, Usain Bolt and Russell Wilson these days?