Forecasting what technologies we will adopt in the future and how will interact with them is a highly speculative game, and the past is littered with hilariously misguided projections. A famous example is an article in The Ladies Home Journal from 1900 that predicts what life would be like in 2000. While some guesses are impressively accurate, some are very wrong. For instance, here’s prediction #22:

Store Purchases by Tube. Pneumatic tubes, instead of store wagons, will deliver packages and bundles. These tubes will collect, deliver and transport mail over certain distances, perhaps for hundreds of miles. They will at first connect with the private houses of the wealthy; then with all homes. Great business establishments will extend them to stations, similar to our branch post-offices of today, whence fast automobile vehicles will distribute purchases from house to house.

Despite the difficultly inherent in such projections, I am prepared to argue that not only are brain mounted computers a likely future technology, but their widespread adoption is a dominant strategy equilibrium. For those unfamiliar with game theory, a dominant strategy equilibrium is the outcome that results when everyone plays the strategy that “dominates” all of the other strategies available to them, where “dominating” means it has the highest payout no matter what strategy the other players use.  Given the existence of a strictly dominant strategy equilibrium, it is inevitable.

There’s probably an accepted term for the collective bundle of technology I’m talking about that’s fancier sounding than “brain mounted computers”, but it gets the point across. I’m actually referring to several technologies that all exist in some form or another today, including virtual retinal displays, augmented reality,  neural input devices, and of course very tiny computers to run the whole thing.

Let me describe it extreme layman’s terms (the only terms I know): you’ll have a powerful computer in your future iPhone-like-device that is connected to a special contact lens that so that screens floats in front on your face, and you steer the whole thing with your brain. The most important facts about this technology is that a) nobody will be able to tell whether you’re looking at your computer or not, and b) it will always be available to you.

Why is using this device a dominant strategy? Choosing to use it is simply expanding your memory and factual knowledge to include everything on the internet. As far as anyone who knows you can tell you will never misspell a word,  not know a fact, forget the words to a song, or know any piece of data. Quick: what was the per-capita GDP of Guatamala in 1976? Anyone with a brain mounted computer will be able to tell you.

Because nobody will be able to tell whether you’re using it, genius will be indistinguishable from brain mounted computer use. If nobody uses it you will have the advantages over your coworkers that perfect memory would give you today. If everybody but you uses it you will have all the disadvantages that someone with really terrible memory has today. When everyone else uses brain mounted computers, those without them will look forgetful and unknowledgeable. It will be a dominant strategy in the same way that optional genius would be today; only extreme individuals will choose to reject it.

In time society will adjust to these technologies, and the speed and anticipation of your thoughts will increase, such that the notion of real memory will no longer be distinct from virtual memory.

Education will have to change drastically, and the fact based portion of schooling will become trivial. You’ll only need to learn how to look stuff up in a given field. All of accounting will take a week to learn. All fields will be trained more like librarians are today.

Once perfect memory is universal, logic, reason, and analytical thinking will be the sole dimension by which intelligence is measured.

Since we know memory needs to be exercised, our real capacity for memory will wither and future generations will evolve with less and less capacity for it. If some disaster were to wipe out electricity and return us to a low tech world we would be helpless, unable to remember the most basic facts without the aid of our brain computers. The few remaining natural brains (which is what we’ll derisively call them) -who chose to live as luddites in secluded villages in far away forests and jungles- will become kings… if we can remember where to find them.

If the existence of this technology is inevitable, and surely that much is uncontroversial, then how can its widespread adoption possibly be avoided?

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