Monday, August 1, 2011

The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices by Frank Moss

(Subtitle: How the Digital Magicians of the MIT Media Lab are Creating the Innovative Technologies that Will Transform Our Lives)

Why I read it: Futurism is always a fun topic to explore.

Summary: Former director of the Media Lab Moss recounts some of the Lab's greatest recent successes and discusses a picture of the future that includes personal robots, enhanced prosthetic devices and more.

My Thoughts: Too heavy on the pitch, right from the start. It's difficult not to see this book as a giant marketing tool for the Media Lab, a document designed with potential funders in mind first, general readers second.

With that out of the way, I'd say that in my mind, two other notions stand out. First, I have an issue with this whole concept of "Human 2.0," the intended outcome of many of the inventions. Second, I want to work at the Lab.

Regarding the former, I'll just put it like this; we've already been there. Saying that what we are now is Human 1.0 is ludicrous. How many millions of years has it taken us to get to this point, slow, adaptive changes taking place in our DNA, manifested in forehead slope and posture, and more? The Human 2.0 goal, while catchy and marketable, is, to me, just wrong. We are well beyond phase 2 of our existence. Yes, technologies developed at the Lab are changing our lives and will continue to in the future. Probably a picky point, but it stuck with me.

That said, the atmosphere in which these inventions are being made - a student can talk to a mentor about a concept, and then is free to actually design, build and test it at his own pace - is the key to my success in life. Without freedom to think, to create, I'm nothing. Given that time, that freedom, I've come up with fundraising ideas for nonprofits, the frameworks of books that I've written, and ways to improve the lives of those around me.

With the concept of Lifelong Kindergarten, the students at the Lab will continue to amaze us with the things they create, from the Drawdio to Guitar Hero to a digital interface system that allows a two-dimensional screener to gather information on a patient about to see a doctor in ways a human never could.
Long live the Media Lab! It's what the world needs more of.

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