What does the future look like? Paraphrasing William Gibson, the future looks like now, only more equally distributed.
Right now, we are tapping into an increasing capacity of processing and managing information. Mobile devices, big data, social media, wearable computing, augmented reality. You name it, it’s giving your cognition a boost.
Vernor Vinge proposed in a 1993 paper that we are looking at two possible scenarios on massively increasing the advance of technology. The AI hypothesis is based on Moore’s law and presumes that at some point our tools will become so smart that they can develop smart tools themselves, in which case we will have an almost immediate explosion in computing capacity.
An intelligence explosion.
But the more interesting of Vinge’s hypothesis I think is the IA hypothesis: Intelligence Amplification. It is more interesting, since AI is still a troubleridden concept both practically and philosophically, whereas intelligence amplification is something we already have in our hands.
Is Google making us stupid? Emphatically, no. And the studies back this up too.
Yes, Google is changing the way we process information, and it is changing our brains. But for the better.
In outsourcing managing trivia to Google, we have been able to release cognitive capacity that was previously tied up with trifles. We have become more innovative.
And what with the increasingly fast dispersion and utilization of information (think social media and big data), the future of man-machine integration won’t be limited to just looking up tidbits online.
I am pretty confident we still need a mushy electrochemical component in the intelligence explosion. The brain is a nexus in an ever-growing, ever-integrating network of information, a network optimized every day better for our actual practical needs.
As our tools keep getting better and as we learn to better optimize how the biological and the digital minds work together, we will be looking at an amazing world, a world that despite all of the technological advance will be an emphatically human world.
It’s a world that is already here. It’s just not yet evenly distributed.