From a National Press Club luncheon yesterday featuring National Science Foundation Director Rita Colwell:

Ms. Colwell: [T]he bar coding of our lives has made information access instantaneous. When I . . . run in a race, I get a chip to attach to my shoes. It records my start, and the world can see my times on the Web. . . . In Antarctica, at least one scientist has put bar codes on the penguins . . .. This makes his data-gathering much faster and more precise.

I expect we'll soon be bar coding the pathogen pfiesteria in the Chesapeake Bay. This will happen thanks to microchips that will identify an organism's genome as fast as a supermarket scanner . . . [W]hat is DNA but the ultimate natural bar code? . . .

Danny Hillis, who pioneered the concept of parallel computing . . . , said, "I went to my first computer conference at the New York Hilton about 20 years ago. When somebody . . . predicted the market for microprocessors would eventually be in the millions, someone else said, `Where are they all going to go? It's not like you need a computer on every doorknob.' " Well, 20 years later, Hillis went back to the same hotel. . . . The room keys had been replaced by . . . electronic cards you slide into slots in the doors. So . . . there was a computer in every doorknob.

Computing technology surrounds us, yet we've not really begun to absorb the meaning of these changes. . . . We assume that all this information makes us smarter. But I suppose if you believe that, you believe that having a library card makes you well-read.