A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Years ago, in a June issue of Inc Magazine includes an article, Innovation: The Outer Limits, which captured my attention. It detailed “the hottest, most mind-blowing high-tech products” looming on the horizon. It certainly grabbed my attention, causing me to shudder with glee—really.

First were quantum computers, promising to run circles around the current offerings, reducing hours of calculations to mere seconds. Then there were devices that will detect and respond to brain waves—great for gamers and virtual reality projections. Listed next was manufactured body parts: prostheses, replacement eyes, and synthetic organs. 

Another promising advance lies in the area of nanotechnology with the ability to alter substances at the molecular level and—my personal fav—nanomachines that could be injected into your body to repair, rebuilt, or scour.

Last was the opportunity to chemically enhance the brain, thereby improving memory. This really excited me. Wouldn’t it be great to remember more and quickly recall details? Sign me up! But wait. What about the things you want to forget? That unhappy consideration dimmed my enthusiasm a bit. 

However, what really gave me pause was the recollection of a novel I read in high school (if I can recall something from four decades ago, maybe my memory’s not all that bad after all—but then, why do I sometimes blank on my address?)

The book was Flowers for Algernon (see the Spark Notes to refresh your memory—ironic humor intended). Essentially, it’s about a mentally challenged man who undergoes an experimental process, which catapults him to the genius level. Unfortunately, the mental improvement is short-lived as he soon regresses to his former self, with the implication that he could soon die.

Technology is exhilarating and its implications are exciting, but given the potential downside, perhaps I’m not quite ready to improve my memory after all.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.


We Need an App For That: Five Ways Technology Skews My Thinking

Several years ago, a coworker and I would spend hours driving from one office to another. Though he wasn’t a soft-spoken guy, I often strained to hear him as we traveled down the road. This only happened in the car and nowhere else. On many occasions I had this crazy impulse to reach for the stereo to turn up his volume. A couple times, my hand actually moved in that direction. Alas, real life lacks a volume control.

Other times, when listening to people with heavy accents, I sometimes don’t catch all their words. What did he say? It sounded like “transliteration,” but that makes no sense. Maybe he said, “Get on the bus.” That would make sense, but it sure didn’t sound like that. If only I could turn on close captioning then I wouldn’t miss a thing.

At home, my wife and I often “discuss” what we’ve said to each other. I accuse her of not listening, and she claims I miscommunicated. “Let’s go back and play the audio recording,” she says in exasperation. Sometimes I wish we can because I’m sure I’ll be vindicated, and other times I’m glad we can’t because she’s probably right. Someone needs to design an app for that—or maybe not.

It’s not just audio, either. Once, after watching a handful of loose papers—ones once carefully organized—fly about the room in disarray, I longed for an undo button. Although I can hit “control Z” on my computer to correct a few errant keystrokes, there are no do-overs in life. The reality is I should have been more careful and not in such a rush. Thinking before acting is better than wishing for an undo.

Television also affects how I try to interact with reality. Often I see something happen in real life, but not paying attention, I wish to watch it again. I mentally reach for the TV remote to “go back” ten seconds or long for an instant replay to catch every element in slow-motion detail. But no matter how often I wish for this, it never happens.

While I may dream of an app to address these issues, the reality is I don’t need technology to solve my problems. What I need is to focus on life as it unfolds around me, to slow down, and to avoid distraction.

Life is a gift, and I don’t want to miss another moment of it.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s new book: Successful Author FAQs: Discover the Art of Writing, the Business of Publishing, and the Joy of Wielding Words


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