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Dumber Really is Happier

This week’s top “tool” on Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools list, basically a Magic 8 Ball (only in reverse–it asks the questions) for the 21st century, is barely interesting in itself. What is interesting is that it’s based on a 17-year-old (dare we say, adolescent?) neural net, possibly the most generally and genuinely artificially intelligent thing on the planet. And what’s really interesting is that when they slimmed it down to cram it into this toy, it actually got better at its primary task. To quote from KK:

Because it knows about fewer objects than the web version, it gets confused less often, so its success rate is ironically higher.

To put this in human terms, it basically says, the less you know, the less connections that exist in the brain, the better you focus and the better you are at doing the things you’re good at. There’s a word we have for knowing so much that it makes you bad at everything: neurotic. They lobotomized this thing and it became more functional. Taken as a metaphor, that’s a scary comment on the human condition.

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