A Pill to Learn a Language

Person Taking a Pill

How do you learn new things?

If you were to try and learn something new, let’s say a language how would you go about doing so? You could read a book or listen to people speak the language or you could formulate any number of other learning strategies. But at the end of the day you may not learn that language unless you are learning it in a style that best suits you.

People learn things differently and these different learning styles can be broken into 7 different groupings which describe your individual optimal learning situation. Listed below are the seven styles.

The Seven Learning Styles:

  1. Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  2. Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  3. Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  4. Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  5. Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  6. Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  7. Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Try and think about which one you are and maybe it will help you to create a strategy that fits your learning style the next time you want to learn something new.

But will learning always require the use of these seven groupings or will there be a new way to learn things?

In a recent Ted Talk, the founder of the MIT Media Lab Nicholas Negroponte discussed his personal journey in science and technology and how over the years he has made predictions as to what the future may hold in store for us in terms of technological advances. Almost all of which have come to fruition. During the talk he came to the thought provoking realization that he has lived in the future. He has seen things advance to new points that were unheard of a decade earlier and only a dream in the minds of many.

Unlike one of those raving people on the street with a billboard yelling at people passing by with the prediction of the coming end of days, Negroponte has used his extensive understanding of human development and technology to accurately predict technological breakthroughs. From the boom of touch screens and e-commerce to Google Maps and many others, he foresaw these things taking shape before they became a reality.

But at the end of his speech when asked what his current prediction for the future is, Nicholas Negroponte had this to say:

“My prediction is that we’ll be able to ingest information. You’re going to swallow a pill and know English. You’re going to swallow a pill and know Shakespeare.” He then continued on to describe how it would work, “And the way to do it is through the bloodstream. So once it’s in your bloodstream, it basically goes through and gets into the brain…and the different pieces get deposited in the right places.”

Well that would make life a very different place now wouldn’t it? Whenever you want to learn something new or have the need for new knowledge you just pop a pill and the information is there in your brain ready for you to talk about. No more trivia night or Trivial Pursuit.

But is this possible? As accurate as Nicholas Negroponte’s predictions have been in the past is this one a little too farfetched?

It actually may not be as farfetched as you may initially think.

In the journal Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience a study was published by a team of researchers that hinted at the early possibilities of such a pill. While this pill did not allow for people to learn a specific skill it did allow for people who took the pill to learn more effectively by reverting parts of the brain back to when it a more elastic state such as when we were children.

As children we all could learn things rapidly and could pick up new languages and other massive undertakings without much consideration or effort because our brains were like sponges. We could take in information and process it and our brain would digest it all and organize it so it could be used. This is one of the reasons why many parents try to teach toddlers how to speak a second language.

The pill effectively allowed the brain to take on this sponge like nature which allows for better learning. But do not get too excited yet as these pills as of now are used for the treatment of behavioural issues and have just recently been discovered to have this side effect. It could be a while before a pill that safety increases learning capabilities is on the market and available to the public.

But even after such a pill is on the market it is still not what Negroponte has suggested will take shape in terms of pills allowing for a transference of a specific set of knowledge or skill. So how would it actually work then?

The answer is nanobots.

Nanorobitcs is a technology field that has emerged over the past dozen years with the emergence of new technologies that allow us to operate with smaller and more powerful computers. The field revolves are around the usage of tiny robots that are about the size of a nanometer, hence the name. But these robots are not the only scientific advancement that would be necessary in order for this to work because not only would we need to have the nanobots enter our brain through the blood stream they also need to know where to go and how to input the information that you ingested in order for it to be usable.

That is where psychology and neuroscience will come into play. What these fields will do is allow us to better understand the brain and human consciousness. We are already learning amazing things about the brain each day. With scientists dedicated to better understanding our brains and what makes us tick it is just a matter of time before we know the things necessary to reverse engineer the brain or in this case, learn a new language by taking a pill.

What we will need to see in order for this to become a reality is these two fields blending together and using the understandings of one and the advancements of the other to create little robots that go into our brains and have the wherewithal to go into the right places in our brains and deposit the information that we had ingested.

As you may guess, this is no simple task, but with all that Negroponte has gotten right in the past how much should we doubt his prediction?

What do you think about Nicholas Negroponte’s prediction? And what would you learn first if such a pill was on the market today? Please let us know in box below.

And once again, thanks for reading.

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