[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

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2020 Vision

Brain Implants

(Rehearsal Transcript)

First aired 2 January 1998

What is 2020 Vision?

Gillian Deacon introduces Robert J. Sawyer. This time, Rob is a man who has recently had an implant placed in his brain. It gives him instantaneous access to the A.D. 2020 equivalent of the World Wide Web — all of the recorded data of humanity.

Gillian: Rob, it's Gill Deacon, and I —

Rob (interrupting): Gill — short for Gillian — Deacon. Co-host of @discovery.ca, the twentieth-century's only daily science-news program. You started working at The Discovery Channel on (date). You were born in Toronto, Ontario, on —

Gillian (flustered): Stop right there! My goodness . . . you know all about me.

Rob: The moment you said your name, my brain implant accessed the knowledge banks and got all the public information on record about you. It's a great device; too bad not everyone can afford one. Still — do you want to know what job you'll have in 2020?

Gillian: Umm, no. Besides, are you sure it's me? There's got to be more than one Gill Deacon in the world.

Rob: The implant checked all their faces; it found you in less than a second.

Gillian: So what has happened to privacy?

Rob: I don't have access to truly personal information; I don't know how much you make, or anything like that . . . but if it was ever reported in the press, or filed with a government office, or otherwise made public, I can retrieve it instantly. In fact, to make things even simpler, my implant sends out a transponder signal: it identifies me to everyone else who has an implant. If I'm attending a party, my transponder lets everyone know what my job is, what my hobbies are, what my marital status is, and so on. If you and I shared an interest in, say, folk music, our implants would immediately notify us, and we could start up a conversation.

Gillian: Notify you? How? Does it talk to you?

Rob: No, it interfaces directly with my brain. The information appears full blown, just as if I'd called it up from memory. And of course, I can access all sorts of information, not just stuff about people. Ask me about anything.

Gillian: All right. What's the capital of Bulgaria?

Rob: (without missing a beat) Sofia, which has a population in your time of 1.1 million people. It was originally a Thracian settlement, but over the centuries has been controlled by Rome, Byzantium, Ottoman Turkey, Russia, and —

Gillian: What's the nearest class-F star to our sun?

Rob: Procyon A in Canis Minor, 11.4 light-years away, at right ascension —

Gillian: That's incredible! But what happens to schooling? Couldn't every kid get an "A" in every subject with that kind of information available?

Rob (with the arrogance of the brain-enhanced): Such 20th century thinking . . . We've shifted away from rote memorization to analysis, and learning how to use information effectively, and, oh, look, Gill, sorry, but I've got to go. My implant says that there's a person over there who shares my interest in fossil hunting. See you!

(Rob exits from the frame)

More Good Reading

Other "2020 Vision" scenarios
Rob's CBC Radio Science FACTion columns
"2020 Vision" press release
Rob on TV — with lots of stills!
Media backgrounder on Rob Sawyer
Radio-TV Interview Report ad for Factoring Humanity
Radio-TV Interview Report ad for Frameshift

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