Out soon is the movie “Lucy.” It looks massively entertaining (as it should be, being written and directed by Luc Besson, who gave us “The Fifth Element” and “From Paris With Love” and “Taken”), but there’s an aspect to it that has bugged me since I first saw a trailer for it, months ago. Namely, the tagline:
“The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Imagine what she could do with 100%.”
The problem is… humans *already* use 100% of their brain capacity. The 10% thing is a myth going on a century old, described in some detail here:
The 10% myth is basically an urban legend with no basis in fact whatsoever, but it’s an urban legend that just freakin’ refuses to die.
That said: the human brain, though it’s being used at much more than 10%, could of course be made to run better. Whether via cybernetics, drugs or perhaps some genetic rewiring, it (like any naturally evolved system) can be greatly improved upon while still retaining its basic nature. In “Lucy,” as the main character gains more and more control she gains magical superpowers… telekinesis and apparently control over time, for starters. These are of course silly. Just because your brain has been boosted doesn’t mean you’ll be able to change the laws of physics. But what you might be able to do:
1) Think (and read, and do math, and process information) faster
2) Think *deeper* (run complex simulations in your head quickly and accurately)
3) Think more creatively
Put those together, and you’ll really have something. #3 is the one that popular culture seems to have the greatest fixation on, as if pure creativity is in and of itself this wonderful thing. But without #1 and #2, creativity is just gibberish. Without the ability to collate data *and* process the validity of an idea in the context of the available data, coming up with new ideas turns into coming up with uncontrolled nonsense. “What if purple monkey dishwasher?”
I suspect that within a generation or two there will be drugs and/or gene therapies that will boost functional IQs. Turn an average person into a genius; make a genius into a super-genius. This will, of course, annoy the hell out of a whole lot of people. *Any* drug is expensive when it first comes on the market. So the Brain boost is going to cost (handwave) ten grand a pop at first. Who could afford that? Well… rich people. Taking rich folk – who, in many cases, already have a tendency to be smarter – and making them thirty IQ points higher up will only make them richer still. This will not go over well.
What these drugs won’t do is allow you to use more of your brain. they’ll allow you to use the same amount of your brain… but more efficiently and/or powerfully. And they won’t let you teleport.