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Which Language Will You Swallow?

Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, gave a TED Talk where he predicted that in the future, “humans will be able to learn an entire language by eating a pill.”  It’s not just languages.  It’s anything you want to learn.

The prediction starts around minute 18:10 of the TED Talk:

“This is a prediction because it will be 30 years; I won’t be here. But one of the things about learning how to read… we have been doing a lot of consuming of information through our eyes. That may be a very inefficient channel. So my prediction is that we are going to ingest information. You’re going to swallow a pill and know English. You’re going to swallow a pill and know Shakespeare. And the way to do it is through the bloodstream. So once it’s in your bloodstream… it gets into the brain, and when it knows that it is in the brain, it deposits it in the right places. So it’s ingested.”

The man has predicted other technological advances, including touch screens and wearable technology.  Why not this?

If it is true, even though I’ll be 70 (and perhaps even more likely to take the risk seeing that I won’t have to worry about the long-term effects of said pill), I would like to ingest several programming languages and have a greater understanding of engineering and computer programming.  I’d like to ingest some of the books I don’t want to take the time to read, such as Middlemarch.  I wouldn’t mind a greater understanding of math concepts.  And I’d like to know how to work a DSLR camera.

I will be hopefully long gone before someone abuses this development and begins using it as a way to control our minds, place ideas firmly inside our brains so they can’t be unlearned or forgotten.  Before it stops being a single pill and something that is sprinkled into a food source.  As much as the idea is a thing of beauty, I can also see all the ways it could be abused.

But let’s not think too hard about that reality.

What do you want to learn if you can know it simply by swallowing a pill?


1 mrs spock { 08.04.14 at 9:19 am }

Mr S and I watched that one too. I said, “Cool! Wouldn’t that be awesome!”

My engineer husband said, “You are aware they are talking about nanobots, right? Like the Borg on Star Trek?”

Uh, uh, uh. Maybe not so good an idea.

2 Northern Star { 08.04.14 at 10:29 am }

Wow, so freaky! I have to watch this one.

3 Shana { 08.04.14 at 3:23 pm }

If this guy is ahead of his time, then L. Frank Baum was way, way ahead of his time. In the 6th Oz book (I think it’s the 6th book, anyway) at the Wogglebug’s College, the students learn their academic lessons by taking pills for each subject. Thus they have more time for the more important pursuits of athletics.

4 Mali { 08.04.14 at 10:06 pm }

Hmmm. I take a certain pride in my abilities and interest in languages, and I find learning languages is a fascinating insight into a culture (AND is lots of fun), so I’m not sure how I’d feel about swallowing a tablet to learn Hindi. Though the most fun is actually speaking the language, so I’d probably swallow (sorry) my pride and do it.

I had to laugh at your list, particularly the DSLR camera and the classic books, because it is very similar to mine. I could probably swap the computer programming with something else … but then, if it was painless, I’d take the computer programming and maths tablets anyway.

I hope they work on this one soon. I don’t want to wait till I’m 80 to speak better French!

5 Tiara { 08.06.14 at 11:49 am }

What wouldn’t I want to learn?!!? I have always said that is I won the lottery I would spend my time taking college & university classes in EVERYTHING. I have also always said that if I found a Genie to grant me 3 wishes, one of them would be to understand & be able to speak all languages…so these pills seem like a winning the lottery & getting a wish granted all in one! Evil possibilities aside, anyway…

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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