Tuesday, December 22, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Fifty-Three

53. Give in and have computers start remembering things for us.

I've joked before about subcontracting out my memory to Google -- but why shouldn't we do that, and why should it be a joke? We're already halfway there. The Boy has a cell phone, and I don't know the number for it, because I've only had to dial it one time: when I punched it into my cell phone. Now, when I want to call The Boy, I just hit "Contacts," scroll to him, and hit "send."

My email at work fills in the names and address of the person
I'm trying to send it to. I just have to start typing some part of the name and it gives me suggestions for who I'm trying to find. So I don't know anyone's email address anymore; a caller asked me for my paralegal's email one day and I had to go to my email to begin to type her name and then read it to her. My computer does the same thing for website addresses.

Having computers remember things for us makes sense: Human memory is overrated and unreliable. I can recall my phone number from when I was a kid, but I don't remember which of the two numbers I have now is for my Mom's house, as opposed to her cell phone. So my little post-it note of her numbers is next to useless. With a little suggestion and interference, memories can be overridden and made obsolete or incorrect, and once that happens, you're stuck singing song lyrics to Pour Some Sugar On Me that'll make your wife laugh.

Paper memory is worse: the speed with which things like phone numbers and addresses change makes printing up lists of memories (like phone numbers and addresses) an exercise in waste and futility. Every year, the Wisconsin State Bar puts out a directory of courts and judges and clerks. In the past year, Dane County got five new judges and others moved their offices around, so the printed list I have on my desk is worthless (and I don't know why I still have it on my desk.) I never look in a phone book for a number anymore.

Plus, we're all carrying around, at any given time, extremely powerful portable computers that can easily be made to store any information that we want; with the improvement of voice-to-data programs, all we have to do is make a simple modification to cell phones or iPods and we can then quickly store information just by saying it into the mouthpiece.

That, in turn, would lead to applications like Taking notes -- having your iPhone record a lecture and automatically turn it into searchable text that you can recall with a few key words. Imagine the possibilities not just for students, but for doctors and lawyers and everyone else. I could meet with a client and have the entire meeting transcribed and searchable and on my office's network in minutes. When I run into you on the street and you say you've moved and give me your new number, I repeat it into my phone and it's in the updated directory instantaneously.

And from then on, it's smooth sailing: Sitting in traffic and need to know when the last battle of the war of 1812 was, or what your coworker mentioned about the boss monitoring internet use, or when your wife's birthday is? It's right there on your own Personal Memorizer.

(By the way: The last battle of the War of 1812 was fought on January 8, 1815.)

Prior entries:

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

No comments: