Nicholas Carr: Where am I?

ATN-300InsightaaS: Regular Across the Net readers are aware of the regard we have for Internet/IT philosopher Nicolas Carr of “IT Doesn’t Matter” fame; we consider his Rough Type blog to be required reading for those (including us!) who are trying to stay current with not just IT developments but their meaning.

The post featured today is exemplary of why we follow Carr’s blog: it both provides important insight and acts as a springboard for further thought. In the post itself, Carr uses the recent announcement that the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine will go to three scientists whose work focuses on the biological basis for navigation and spatial awareness. Carr is quick to point out that he has considered the importance of this work in the past, and quotes sections from his book The Glass Cage to introduce his thoughts on the scientists’ work. In the post, Carr goes on to speculate on the notion that “memory and navigational sense may, at their source, be one and the same,” adding that this “would certainly help explain why early memory loss in dementia often manifests itself in a loss of navigational sense.”

At least within the scope of ATN’s focus, there is another important implication to this set of observations. To date, very little of IT’s data organization has been based on location. Carr (and others) comment that the scientists have discovered some type of “inner GPS.” What if instead (or in addition) they’ve pointed to a need for IT to do more in aligning data with geographic markers? Location-based intelligence is still a relatively new and less-than-common aspect of corporate systems. Perhaps we’ll be better able to make sense of the Big Data that is deluging us if we can tie it to our inner GPSes!

Navigation is the most elemental of our skills – “Where am I?” was the first question a creature had to answer – and it’s the one that gives us our tightest connection to the world. The loss of navigational sense is also often the first sign of a mind in decay. Last week, the Nobel Committee announced that this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine will go to three scientists – John O’Keefe and the couple May-Britt and Edvard Moser – whose work has revealed the intricate biological underpinnings of our talent for getting around. O’Keefe discovered the brain’s place cells, which map out particular places, and the Mosers discovered the brain’s grid cells, which give us a general sense of spatial reckoning. Here’s how I sum up their work in the “World and Screen” chapter of The Glass Cage

Read the entire post on Carr’s Rough Type blogsite: Link


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