This was originally written for the March 2023 edition of Philosophy Notes, the newsletter of the Marin Philosophical Society.
There’s a continuum that flows like so: data to information to knowledge to wisdom. Age, I believe, is supposed to support that trajectory. And if not age, at least time. In my case, it’s been neither.
Perhaps this is a personal failing but I’m inclined to point the finger at technology and other conveniences of the so-called Age of Information. Had it been called the Age of Wisdom would things be different? Not for me thanks to a trend I picked up years ago called “The Second Brain.”
The basic idea is to outsource elements of our memory and intellectual processes to systems that can do the memorizing and processing for us. This is not a new idea — I think it was originally called “writing” — but the critical difference is in the ubiquity of digital interfaces and the introduction of artificial intelligence. Note that it’s not called “artificial wisdom” — otherwise I would have downloaded some.
Has this second brain opened space in my first brain to enjoy a greater depth of experience? Has any of my knowledge fermented into wisdom? And with all this alleged time saved why am I still aging?
Moreover, what if you misplace your second brain? And worse, what if you misplace your first? My mom did thanks to dementia and now I’m running the numbers on my own genes — perhaps we need our second brains more than our first brains thought.
I’ll explore these and other notions at a speaking engagement for the Marin Philosophical Society on March 20 (meanwhile, I’m uploading my consciousness to ChatGPT to help make my deadlines).