December 2 2012

"Last year, I visited Kabul and Herat. I was curious how people in a country with roughly four percent internet penetration and limited mobile data access interacted with Google search and products. Since radio is a popular form of mass communication in Afghanistan, it turns out that people call in to a local radio show called Percipal (Seek and Search) and ask their query to the host. The host, who has internet access, does a Google search and then reads the answer on air. The message I brought back to the US? Constraint breeds creativity."

From The Truth of the Digital Economy, Think Quarterly (The Open Issue) p.18 

Several years ago, Jared and I went to his family's cabin for a fall weekend. This was in around 2008; there was no data reception up at the cabin, and our phones wouldn't have known what to do with one anyhow.

Somewhere around 1am, one of us (I forget which one) started singing Bohemian Rhapsody (there may have been alcohol involved), but couldn't remember the opening lyrics. 

(Quick, without Googling: can you remember them?)

We were going nuts. Our options were to think it over all night, drive back to the nearest computer in Montreal (two hours south), or pick up the phone. 

There was only one person who a) would still be up at 1am, b) would be sober enough at that time to answer the phone, and c) would know the opening lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody. I called my friend Erin, who promptly answered. All was well, and we could finally move on to more important topics. 

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What's my point? The convenience of having a miniature computer in our pockets, always connected to the rest of the world, means we're no longer struggling to remember random information. Memory isn't really a prized skill anymore. It's convenient, but sometimes I miss the effort of trying to remember something.