Due to advances and growth in science, math, history, literature, and other subjects typically taught in schools (K-12), the standard curriculum takes too long to complete, not mentioning post-secondary education. K-12 is more like k-20. Most people are not entering the working world until their mid-twenties or early thirties. They're missing out on time to start families, gain work experience, pay off debt, become financially stable, etc.

A team of scientists and educators were employed by the governments of various nations across the galaxy to solve this issue. They developed an idea of using nanobots to create the neural pathways that yemulate the neural pathways that are created when certain information, or facts, are consumed or learned. They gather the information, x-rays, nano robots, and subjects and they conduct experiment after experiment until it was safe and ready for the public to use. They became an overnight sensation and soon, the length of time to complete school, while still learning the same information, was shortened signifigantly. The nanobots were tailored so that they could be taken as easily as you take a pill. The Pills of Knowledge, or PoKs, as they're called, are mass produced, and the subject areas they carry are expanded immensely.

Some more information:

  • Each PoK generally contains about the amount of information covered in a chapter of a textbook, or a subsection of a textbook (say: 6.1 of a statistics notebook or chapter 2 of a biology textbook).
  • I've been debating various options on how PoKs are used. Either a) They are very commonly used and have completely replaced the educational system. They are prescribed by what are called "edudoctors." Thinking becomes rare and anyone who needs to think for their job must obtain a "thinking licence." This is the most prominent option b) The complete opposite of the last one. The school system is very much still a thing. Kind of like how flipped classrooms work today, students take these PoKs, and then use this information to think, make judgments, and make complex decisions, etc. c) Works sort of like a caste system, and is a mixture between the previous two options - For the working class, kids are just prescribed PoKs for their education, so they can get to work sooner. Rich kids go to school. They learn how to think deeply, intellectually, and creatively. Often, they have private tutors as well. OR d) PoKs are illegal in some countries, who prefer to do education the "old school" way. PoKs are sold on the black market, and a heavy percentage of kids try to get ahead with them. This is a relatively unpopular option, partially because it was a fleeting thought I had a day or two ago.
  • PoKs can be sold in markets, such as the one seen in Cinder. Where there are numerous stalls where goods and services are offered and sold. I guess there would have to be a pharmacy, or an edupharmacy. Or perhaps they have another, bigger location in the same city and this is only limited stock.
  • Some people are pill poppers and try to take as many PoKs as possible

So: big question: How would nanobots emulate the creation of neural pathways thatare created when you learn certain facts? Is this even possible?

  • $\begingroup$ The same way the parasitic worms do in The World of Tomorrow!!!! theinfosphere.org/Parasites_Lost $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 4 '18 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ A wise man once told me, "If I knew how to do that, I wouldn't post it here on WB:SE, I'd be running to the patent office." Nanobots are impossible today. We don't understand how memory works. Therefore, it isn't possible - yet. But that shouldn't stop your story. The vast majority of SciFi doesn't explain the details of futuristic tech - it just works. $\endgroup$ – JBH Mar 4 '18 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ In today's world USA, middle school (roughly 5th through 9 grades) is largely marking time, intended to keep teens out of the workforce longer, not teach more content. If more time was the answer, there's plenty of it in the schools today. PoKs would be more like an extended library intracellular to the brain via manors. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Mar 4 '18 at 23:43

How would nanobots emulate the creation of neural pathways thatare created when you learn certain facts? Is this even possible?

We are not yet certain how memories are really stored. We speak of neural pathways but there's evidence that, while part of the answer, they can't be the only answer. The pattern of how one remembers things, associates them, and even forgets them points clearly to some additional mechanism being involved than neural connections alone.

But however they're stored, they're somewhere in the brain, and the nanobots can undoubtedly get there.

The nanobots would need to coordinate, several of them attacking every single neuron involved in that particular experience - and here's the big difficulty, this neuron involvement scheme is in all likelihood different from person to person - and then modify those neurons' firing potentials in order to simulate the making of significant memories. You would then vaguely "remember" being told things, and "remember" those things.

Is this possible? Supposing that it is enough, and that you needn't decode a four-dimensional firing matrix from untold billions of cells, which a few million nanobots would never be capable of? I can't say.

I suspect that if it is even remotely possible, then the first, unavoidable stage is getting one's brain pathway structure mapped and this mapping stored in a nanobot-accessible way (perhaps an interface capsule buried deep in the brain). Then the knowledge would need to be translated in a sort of "universal neural language" (which would cover perhaps 95% of the people, meaning the remaining 5% sort of get it in the neck - they'll require more expensive personalized PoKs). Now it becomes possible to produce a PoK containing a compressed UNL package, that will invade the brain, access the mapping, and compile the UNL information into a form meaningful for that specific brain.

(Having the PoK perform the initial mapping seems wasteful, really hard, and unnecessary).

The mapping problem

In very simple terms, as Hoyle's Black Cloud put it, humans do not really "communicate"; they show one another labels, such as "I have a headache" or "Dog", and they think they communicate while actually there's no guarantee at all that what I call a headache, or a dog, is what you think. This was demonstrated to be true (see e.g. Oliver Sacks' An Anthropologist on Mars, and The Man who Took his Wife for a Hat). So if I want Eve to learn that "dog bite", these two words actually expand to a whole world of meanings and associations. I need to locate Eve's map of meanings and associations that correspond to "dog", then the one for "bite", and then establish an association between the two. And the maps will be completely different from the same maps from Alice, Bob, or Charlie, because they have accrued different bodies of experience.

It might even be the case that Charlie has no association for "dog" - he never saw one. I then need to load much more data to establish what is the "substance" of a dog, and what are its "accidentals".

Another possibility (from Hebekiah's comment)

A big problem when learning is neural relaxation - loss of signal. Associations are not established efficiently enough and quickly enough to guarantee recall, and the concept is then lost in the noise. This is what forces us to study, to reinforce the desired associations, or adopt mnemonic techniques to strengthen recall (and we still forget, unless the acquired notions are exercised in order to associate with everything else we know).

Nanobots might not be able to help us in learning something new, but they might very well help in studying something. They might notice associations being formed and burn them deeper automatically, or prevent them from fading.

You'd probably have to hit the associational housekeeping called "dreaming", which means that PoKs would probably turn out to also be nightmare pills, but now the associations being recorded are exactly the same we want to "play back" - there's no mapping problem; the networks reinforced in Bob's mind will be wildly different from those in Alice's mind for exactly the same concept, but they will faithfully reflect Bob's makeup because they were Bob's in the first place.

This might easily allow to sidestep the "K-20" problem a different way, and also bypass the "taping problem" that was at the root of the famous Asimov's novella Profession. One year of study would allow you to learn - not by rote, but really understanding - five or ten years' worth of subjects. Also, memories could be "stored" on different media and reloaded when needed (this happens in The End of Summer).

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    $\begingroup$ What if the PoK were given while one did problem sets or studied, memorized a particular grouping of information? Then they could "simply" follow that particular person's pathways (the currently excited regions) and build upon them. The student would just start it: 2x1=2, 2x2=4,... then nanobots take over and do the rest. $\endgroup$ – Hebekiah Mar 5 '18 at 9:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Hebekiah, "the rest" would be say the number 8 - which the user hasn't yet thought about. But there's merit in your suggestion; I'll amend my answer. $\endgroup$ – LSerni Mar 5 '18 at 12:20

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