The Pros and Cons of a Google Brain Implant

In John Varley's upcoming scifi novel Rolling Thunder, everyone has a brain implant that lets them google information constantly. And many futurists are saying this technology will become a reality long before we colonize Mars. The question isn't whether we'll have google brain implants (or the futuristic search engine equivalent), but how we'll handle them. What exactly would be the plusses and minuses of being able to google information instantaneously in your head, without anybody knowing you're doing it?

A google brain implant could work in lots of ways. With technology we have right now, people could wear a brain-computer interface helmet like the one sold by Emotiv, and use that to control the cursor on a wearable computer with a tiny monitor that's attached to your classes. So the thing wouldn't be implanted in your brain, but it would be responding to electrical signals from your brain. More sophisticated wearables like those described in Vernor Vinge's novel Rainbows End might allow you to google via subtle movements of your body, and then display results in special contact lenses.

A more far-future implant might actually have a direct neural linkup to your brain, allowing you to see google results on your retina. No matter how the instant, subtle, brain-controlled access to google works, the same benefits and problems are likely to exist.

PRO:

Ability to "remember" many details about a person or issue in the middle of a conversation, so that you can marshal facts quickly and check the accuracy of what other people are saying.

CON:

The person you're talking to could much more easily pretend to be somebody they are not by googling information and feigning expertise.

PRO:

You will never get lost because you've got maps at your synapse tips, and you'll always know what's playing at your local theaters. You'll also get the latest news headlines and stock quotes at the twitch of an eyelid.

CON:

You'll spend so much time in your head reading google news and watching YouTube that you'll zone out during conversations and forget to pay attention to what your best friends are telling you (unless they're telling you in the form of a google news alert).

PRO:

Instant access to infinite data storage allows you to quickly store your every interesting thought, and search through them instantly. More innovative ideas result.

CON:

Over reliance on "offloaded" memory means people make less of an effort to remember important things and therefore brain flexibility actually erodes. Ideas become boring repetitions of what you've thought up before, or what other people have thought up and posted on the Web.

PRO:

You can cheat on tests.

CON:

You can cheat on tests.

PRO: Need something desperately and can't get to the computer to order it? Just buy it through Froogle.

CON: Google ads are constantly running in your head, perhaps designed to respond to thought patterns.

PRO: Every time Google ads a cool new service, like Gmail or Picasa, you've got instant access to it in your brain.

CON: Google is famous for its "silent update" system, which occasionally results in pretty buggy services. Imagine what it will be like when Google silently updates your brain.