Is That a Brain in Your Pocket?


Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, runs a pretty interesting, wide-ranging blog. Today, he's musing on the different between a cyborg eyeball and an ordinary iPhone:

Technically, you're already a cyborg. If you keep your cell phone with you most of the time, especially if the earpiece is in place, I think we can call that arrangement an exobrain. Don't protest that your cellphone isn't part of your body just because you can leave it in your other pants. If a cyborg can remove its digital eye and leave it on a shelf as a surveillance device, and I think we all agree that it can, then your cellphone qualifies as part of your body. In fact, one of the benefits of being a cyborg is that you can remove and upgrade parts easily. So don't give me that "It's not attached to me" argument. You're already a cyborg. Deal with it.

Your regular brain uses your exobrain to outsource part of its memory, and perform other functions, such as GPS navigation, or searching the Internet. If you're anything like me, your exobrain is with you 24-hours a day. It's my only telephone device, and I even sleep next to it because it's my alarm clock.

What I need for the next upgrade to my exobrain is a special Dilbert pocket on all of my shirts. It should be located where Dilbert's shirt pocket is, but have a cutout hole for the exobrain's eye, which at the moment is just a camera lense[sic]. As my exobrain becomes more capable, and eventually self-aware, it will want to be able to watch the world with me and whisper in my ear via Bluetooth to my earpiece as needed….

Among other things, my exobrain will recognize faces and automatically cross reference them to Facebook and other social media. Wouldn't it be great to meet someone you have met before and have your exobrain whisper to your earpiece "That's Bob. He's a chiropractor. Judging from his lack of a wedding ring and the way his eyes dilate when he looks at you, he is sexually attracted."

And here are a bunch of prototypes of the technology that he's talking about, already in existence:

NEXT: Legislative Reality vs. Political Reality

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  1. The internet is my butt.

    1. Gogol again!

  2. Among other things, my exobrain will recognize faces and automatically cross reference them to Facebook and other social media.

    The Droid phone can actually do this – if you take a picture on it you can google search from the image and it will show matches to it. It’s pretty cool, even if it’s a bit over the top.

    Apologies if this is featured in the prototypes section – it shows up blank on my screen.

  3. “I even sleep next to it because it’s my alarm clock.”

    I do that too!

  4. This liver has an MBA from Harvard, you pointy-haired fool!

  5. As my exobrain becomes more capable, and eventually self-aware…

    Once that happens, it will no longer the cybernetic part of your organism, but the two of you will be symbiants.

    Then one of you will realize it doesn’t necessarily need the other, and then SkyNet happens.

  6. I have enough shit in my regular brain. An exobrain is likely to be 5% wheat and 95% chaff.

    1. or 50% shit and 50% shinola…of which you won’t know the difference…



    1. When i touch my weiner, the whole world spins.

      I love you mommy!

    2. That’s an interesting statement. What has done more good for humanity: Government or technology?

      1. Government has never relieved my boredom, only increased it. +1 for technology.

        1. Indeed. I think people organizing into large communities did some good, but the ruling of those communities, not so much.

          Technology, of course, rules and has solved and will solve a great deal of our problems. Government is almost the anti-technology, if you think about it.

          1. technology is what allowed people to come together in communities. Agriculture, tools, writing, specialization (early capitalism!), were all innovations that brought large numbers of people together.

      2. Pro Libertate, war.

        1. I think war is vastly overrated as a driver of technology, except for technologies involving death and mayhem. Then it does pretty well.

          1. Agreed. I think the main driver of war-generated tech is the forced interaction with other cultures. Which could be accomplished without the war, necessarily.

            Also, I hate “Without the space race, we’d never have aluminum foil.”* As if aluminum foil was dependent on only one factor.

            *Just an example, not saying it’s actual a true statement.

            1. I should clarify: medical technology but I am pretty sure I could argue r&d in other fields

  8. Wouldn’t it be great to meet someone you have met before and have your exobrain whisper to your earpiece “That’s Bob. He’s a chiropractor. Judging from his lack of a wedding ring and the way his eyes dilate when he looks at you, he is sexually attracted.”

    Only if it does it in a sassy, gay black man voice

    1. I find this possiblity terrifying.

    2. Bob stared longingly into Judy’s eyes. Her exobrain beeped in her ear: That’s Bob. He’s a chiropractor. Judging from his lack of a wedding ring and the way his eyes dilate when he looks at you, he is sexually attracted.

      “I haven’t heard from you in a while,” Bob said. “I was starting to worry about you.”

      “Why? Did I miss an appointment recently?” Judy was confused.

      “Um, sort of. We were supposed to meet for dinner last week. I was looking forward to it.”

      “Oh sorry, I was filtering for work last week, it was a crazy time. When did I agree to have dinner with you anyway?”

      Bob was visibly upset. “Just forget it. If you can’t remember who you’re fucking, why should I even bother with you?”

      But Judy was already on her way. He seems to be upset with you, her exobrain whispered. Just start walking, or you’ll be late for your 2:15 budget meeting.

  9. I’ve been saying this for a while. We already hold it to our ear, so the next step is to push it in.

    1. So you know people who need an iPhone inserted via the ear? Me too! We should totally hang out!

  10. I can’t wait until the iPhone = brain thing makes its way into advertising.

    “Give good brain this holiday season.”

    1. I knew a girl that gave good brain…

      1. That was Warty.

      2. See what I mean? It will outrage the feminists even more than that Burger King commercial.

        1. Man, I need to watch more TV.

  11. “We Were Out Of Our Minds With Joy” by David Marusek deals with the exobrain concept well. The story’s main character is a commercial artist. His “valet” is a canister of neuropaste in his closet. Living for centuries is hard on the memory, so the valet remembers things: birthdays, anniversaries, ex-lovers, designs. Deals with junk mail, viral attacks, legal proceedings, etc.

    Great story. I can’t find it on-line for you guys. It was incorporated into his novel Counting Heads, which wasn’t as successful in my opinion.

    1. Gridlinked, dude. But as Ian Cormac found out, it robs you of your humanity.

      1. I just want that Tenkian weapon.

  12. Didn’t I just read about this in Rainbows End?

    1. I tried reading Rainbow’s End. Got about a 1/3-1/2 of the way through and quit out of utter boredom. It started out great, but I got tired of reading about the banal exploits of cranky Asian man.

      This was my 2nd unsuccessful try with Vinge. I think I’m done with him.

      1. Rainbows End is my least favorite of his.

        Have you tried Fire Upon the Deep or Deepness in the Sky? If one of them was your first try then something is wrong with you.

        1. Fire Upon the Deep was the first one I tried. It was some years ago and I may give it a try again one day, but his prose just doesn’t hit the spot for me. There are other writers I enjoy much more and my reading time is limited, so Vinge gets the heave ho.

          I know this is heresy, but I find Heinlein to be in the same vein. Something about the rhythm in the way he writes just doesn’t go down all that smoothly for me.

          1. You might want to try again at life if you don’t like Heinlein.

  13. Some high profile bioethicists have already declared voluntary cyborg-ization as dehumanizing.

    These are the same folks who think pain, decay, and death are the most enobling aspects of humanity.

    1. Really? Which ones? I almost think that you have to have some kind of crude materialistic view of humanity to say that. I would say what makes us human is our mind/soul and that our bodies are incidental. I can only see cyborgization as dehumanizing if you view our bodies as born to be the essense of what we are.

  14. So was I a cyborg in college when I began carrying my calculator everywhere I went? I certainly used it to outsource my computational processes. What about my notebook, which I used to supplement my memory?

    His logic is not well thought out.

    1. Calculator yes, as it is a digital processing device. Notebook no.

    2. Old technology man….you’re dead to me!

    3. Your ancestors were cyborgs once they starting putting holes in people with sharpened rocks rather than their teeth and nails.

  15. or sugary cereal?

  16. So was I a cyborg in college when I began carrying my calculator everywhere I went?

    Yes, but not one of the cool ones.

    What about my notebook, which I used to supplement my memory?

    His logic is not well thought out.

    I don’t know, i think his point was that the line is far, far blurrier than we tend to assume. A cyborg is just the latest iteration of the tool-using human being.

  17. fucking spam filter


  18. My wife has a heart pacemaker installed — she is not amused when I point out that she is a cyborg. And, since she’s an orthopedic surgeon who installs metal hips and knees, she’s a cyborg who creates more cyborgs.

    1. So she’s basically a macroscopic and slow version of gray goo.

      Although, I’m sure she’s quite lovely in person.

      1. For a while I nicknamed her “The Goo-Wife” — it was a combo of “The Goo(d) Wife” with the “d” “accidentally” dropped, and a play on the nickname of my firstborn, who I used to call “goo-buddy” because she kept filling her diapies with copious amounts of goo (albeit usually not gray).

        It’s a wonder I’m not divorced.

        1. It’s a wonder any of us are in functional relationships.

          My wife gives my shit when I refer to one of you guys as “a friend on the board.” This coming from a woman with over 500 hundred facebook friends, many she’s never met or talked to.

          1. What is this “functional” relationship you speak of and where may one acquire it?

            I use the term “online acquaintance.” That seems to work better with people. Of course, that just makes the wife think I’m having an online affair. As if.

            1. I prefer “kids on the internet,” as it’s an allusion to a really great song.

    2. She’ll be bahk!

  19. Yes, but not one of the cool ones.

    I don’t know- I thought my first TI-83 Plus was pretty cool.

    1. I had a Casio calculator watch. Which I took hell for until the first pop quiz in math class.

      1. Oh Sug. You were a poetry-writin’, wrist-calculation-doin’ sex machine in high school, weren’t you?

        1. Fuck yeah, baby. I was so many contradictory things I was pretty much left alone. But then, I had few troubles with bullies after I beat up that albino kid twice.

    2. My father was a cheap bastard who would never buy me one. Kept saying that he wasn’t buying one until they actually did something productive. It took him until 1993 to relent.

      1. I used mine to type notes to boys as often as anything else, which I considered extremely productive.

      2. That sucks. The calculator was great, but the function I used more was that it could store up to 50 phone numbers with name labels. I can only have about 6 phone numbers in my head at any given time, so that was a fantastic feature for me.

        1. Sorry, I realize that John was not talking about my super-cool and totally not nerdy calculator watch.

    3. I am an HP man. RPN is the only way to go. I never stored phone numbers on it though. Of course I never really had any phone numbers that needed storing; maybe my fancy scientific calculator frightened the fair sex away?

  20. Well that makes the concept of “cyborg” trivially stupid.

  21. I think Adams is reaching here. It’s a tool, nothing more. It’s not attached to me (it’s attached to my belt) and I don’t have a problem turning off my Blackberry. If I don’t feel like being social or just going stealth, I turn it off. Done.

    Lots of people are intimately attached to the tools of their trade. That doesn’t make them a living embodiment or some bizarre hybrid of it. Driving a taxi doesn’t run you into Lighting McQueen.

  22. How far has Jean Claude Van Damme fallen that he hasn’t even got a mention here yet?

  23. For another sci-fi ref, this is also ‘Jane’ in the Ender series.

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