When we're walking down a typical city street these days, it's hard not to bump into people who are so absorbed in their smartphones and tablet computers that they're almost one with their gadgets, oblivious to the world around them. This burgeoning digital dependence may conjure up vaguely creepy images of the hapless citizenry in "The Matrix" movies, strapped into chairs and wired into an illusion that takes the place of reality.
But that's taking the negative view. To neuroscientists, psychologists and researchers in the field of artificial intelligence -- that is, teaching computers how to mimic and even improve upon the human thinking process -- machines can be a positive influence on our lives, too. They've come up with the term cognitive technology to describe how electronic devices and other tools can assist and influence humans' mental activities, such as learning, retaining and retrieving information from memory, and problem solving. Cognitive technology encompasses not just electronic gadgets, but a range of other things that can assist human thinking, from pharmaceuticals to brain-training games. As today's technology gives way to devices with vastly more computing power and communications bandwidth, and new generations of psychoactive drugs and electronic implants eventually emerge, cognitive technology is likely to really, really rock our world. Here are four such potential future developments.
Textbooks Really Will Be 'Intelligent'
Perhaps every student can remember sitting in study hall, struggling through some thick textbook full of arcane terminology and complicated new ideas that frazzled his neurons to the point of exhaustion. Well, students of the future are likely to have it a lot easier, because digital books equipped with artificial intelligence capabilities will guide them along with the patience and perceptiveness of their favorite kindly professors. Take the newly developed Inquire intelligent biology textbook for the iPad. It...
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