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How will cybernetic technology affect the future of education?

August 6, 2011

In Peter Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy he introduces the concept of neural nanonics, a cybernetic system inserted into a person’s brain to enhance their memory, thinking, and communications. The device is inserted into the brain where it makes connections to the cerebral cortex, and the individual’s synaptic map, giving the person instant access to unlimited information and greatly enhancing reasoning capability.

We are just beginning to see the advent of implanted computer devices in humans. Assuming that the technology develops into capabilities similar to Hamilton’s neural nanonics, what will be the effect on how children are educated? It certainly will make little sense to test them on rote facts if those facts are available instantly from their inserts. How much of their inherent reasoning skills will be employed in learning and how much will come from their inserts? If the integration is as seamless as that in Hamilton’s books, how could we assess the difference? I wonder if education will be reduced to teaching kids how to better operate and access their inserts. It could mean improving the efficiency of formulating initial information for insert calculations and interpreting results from the insert afterward.

Either way, learning would be radically changed.

What ramifications of a technology like this do you see? Would such a transition be good or bad? Will learning concentrate on evaluation and creativity, instead of facts, problem solving, and analysis? What will the effect be on society?



  1. I would love to have a little computer chip in my brain to store languages, history, mathematic equations and scientific knowledge.

    From personal experience, I can say that if I do not use the knowledge I have regularly, it fades away and eventually becomes inaccessible.

    I think more time could be devoted to theoretical work, creative and intuitive problem solving, since there would not be so much effort spent on memorizing facts to regurgitate for exams. As it stands now, many students tend to forget most of what they learn because of all the cramming of information that they do. This is inefficient in many ways.

    If access to all of our collective information was made available to everyone, we would make scientific and technological breakthroughs at an alarming rate.

    There is, of course, a downside to such a technology. If it was completely intertwined with our memories, we would never even know if we were hacked.

    There was an episode of Stargate: SG-1 where an entire colony of people all had computer chips in their brains that gave them access to all knowledge ever recorded by their people. However, their planet was uninhabitible and they lived in a biosphere. The power that kept the biosphere operational was slowly diminishing and it could only support so many lives. Since the SG-1 team arrived, the computer mainframe essentially hacked into these people’s minds: Four people (a number equivalent to the number of people in SG-1) walked out of the biosphere, via the computer’s command; and all memories of them had been wiped from the rest of the colonist’s minds.

  2. Yolanda permalink

    While there a some pretty great upsides to this, I would think that our “minds” could atrophy. Think about it, if you do not utilize a muscle, it becomes weak and useless over time. If you then attach an artificial machine to said muscle and only use the machine & not the actual muscle, the muscle still won’t fully regain its original strength.

    I would think that the more we relied on the computer, the less we’d truly think. Then what would happen to us if the entire system which controled the computers went offline either temporarily or permanantly? It’s akin towhat would happen to society should an E.M.P. Be detonated. So many would be effectively paralyzed without all of the technology that we’ve come to rely on.

  3. These comments are both excellent, albeit making opposite points. Would having an enhanced brain lead to higher thinking? Or would it cause the biological portion of this brain to atrophy? Or…would it just change the way we think?
    I tend to believe the third possibility. Even if the artificial portion of the brain is capable of parallel processing and high speed calculation, it will still require the creativity and flexibility to initiate the problems to be solved.

  4. FYI: Hamilton’s nanonics didn’t “replace” thinking, it augmented. It is also far beyond our current concept of “tech” as it wasn’t a “chip”, rather more like a bio component that tied into our own systems to give us far greater access to information and abilities. It did NOT replace the thought process, just gave a wider/faster reach. Think “The Matrix- I know kung-fu” without the spike/external machine loads. Plus version 4.5 was less buggy. 🙂

    Google Glass, IMHO, is the first tiny baby step on this road.

    Read the section where Genevieve gets her first set of nanonics for an oustanding look at a possible future for us. I practically drooled with envy.

    Also, the ramification of losing the nanonics and their capabilities was explored thoroughly farther into the series, and it is clear that its help far outweighed any possible downside.

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  1. How will cybernetic technology affect the future of education? (via AlterWorld: Norman LaFave's Science Fiction Musings on Writing, Science, Technology, Education, Philosophy, Politics, and Policy) « brokervision

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