This idea is about making television a mechanism for cognitive enhancement rather than cognitive stagnation. It’s about developing software that integrates with popular television shows and serves up quizzes, discussion prompts and contextual information at regular intervals while you’re watching.

This software could exercise your brain in various ways. The questions could test how well you remember details of a show’s plot and characters, quiz or inform you about its real-life context, or serve up discussion prompts that challenge you to analyze, predict or speculate upon its plot line.

Say you are watching The Crown, a Netflix series about Queen Elizabeth II.  At the end of a scene, your screen might flash a question like: “What is the name of Elizabeth II’s husband?” or “What historical event led to Elizabeth II ascending to the throne?” To enhance your knowledge about the show’s historical basis, the software might display an (i) symbol at the bottom right of the screen after an important scene, such as an exchange between Winston Churchill and the Queen. Clicking on the (i) would bring up a screen addressing the question we all have when watching historical dramas: Did it really happen that way?

To encourage thinking, the software might ask you to speculate on or predict what happens next. For instance, when Queen Elizabeth finds out she cannot legally permit her sister to marry despite having promised she would allow the marriage, viewers might be asked, “What solutions should Elizabeth consider to this problem? What do you think she will end up doing?”

The software would work particularly well with historical dramas like The Crown and complex mysteries and sci-fi thrillers, such as West World. Viewers could share their quiz results on social media and compete with each other for the best response scores. They could also pause an episode at a certain discussion prompt to interact with fellow viewers who also wish to linger on that discussion prompt. In this way, the software would address one of the pain points of modern television: Binge-watching makes shows go by way too fast.

You’re watching a scene in Westworld…

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A dot appears on the right-hand corner of the screen…

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Listener comprehension: A multiple choice question appears.

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