Let’s face it. Our Digital children are freakishly fast, but they have all the flexibility of a steel rod dipped in liquid nitrogen. One unexpected tap and things rapidly degenerate into all kinds of unexpected chaos. We’ve been on quite the journey with IT over the last half century or so trying to navigate between these twinned realities, trying to take advantage of the one and avoid the other.
Our first tentative attempts to ride these broncos were in the military and governmental domains, which are more clearly defined or just rigidly bureaucratic depending on one’s perspective. For better or worse, that reality hid, or, at least, diminished the impacts of the steel rod side of this equation. So we happily invited the dervishes into our workplaces.
Over the last year, it seemed like Artificial Intelligence was on quite a run and that days of complacently serving our robot overlords in a kind of de-natured paradise were right around the corner. Self-driving cars were in the advanced stages of development and not by the tweedy academics but by giants of industry and not the old industry, either. These happy engineers were the new guys who had already changed our lives in ways both big and small through the triplet miracles of design, technology and marketing. The Internet of Things had its own acronym (IoT) in the mass media and my house was getting smarter by the nano-second. Oh swoony singularity.
Well, maybe not so much. Perhaps the first hint was a little blurb that a Google car got a ticket. Seems like it was driving too slow for conditions and causing a bit of traffic jam. Not a big deal. Perhaps just a case of the new ethics exposing the depravity of the old.
When’s the last time you talked to your computer? Well, o.k. when’s the last time you talked to your computer and expected something to happen as a result? For me, it always was a little like talking to myself, something done more for the feel of it than the content. Recently however, the one-way pronouncements have begun to take on more of two-way flavor.
I’ve never been a big fan of Siri or Cortana or especially the creepy no-name Google that’s just trying too hard to be friendly. I still hear a bit of the drunken Swede that was state of the art for computer generated voices back in the 80’s when I first worked with the technology. Beyond that, though, I had to wonder what the point was. My experience both personally and watching others was that it was just easier to use the keyboard. I’m not a fan of endlessly repeating myself at ever escalating tones of voice and more precise diction and yet that seemed to be how things played out more times than not.
“Well, it’s as much an art as a science.” You’ve said it. I’ve said it. We’ve all said it at one time or another, usually to deflect some misguided wish for certainty, simplicity, or immediacy. Beyond the verbal hand-waving, however, there is a deeper truth. The professions we choose are, ultimately, all human endeavors and as such come with the all the mystery and ambiguity of human instincts, emotions, visions and even intellect. The whole truth is the “Art and Science” phrase is said as much to comfort ourselves in what we don’t know or completely understand as it is to suggest an elevated status conferred by access to some secret wisdom. Continue reading
When’s the last time you looked in a mirror? When’s the last time you looked at yourself in your digital mirror? I know Facebook didn’t invent the idea of the curated self and that the Internet doesn’t know everything (including, most obviously, the basics of civil discourse). All that granted, our digital selves are becoming a larger part of who we are and it’s a part of ourselves that is as awkward and full of often un-focused energy as a stereotypical teenager. One could hope we’ll get through this awkward Digital adolescence and emerge to be more productive, well-adjusted, and… well, what? Digital Adults? What exactly would that look like? Continue reading
An anniversary slipped quietly by last fall. It happens all the time, this unremarked slipping away of the now into history and then beyond to oblivion. That’s the human story, our sorrow and our relentless glory. This was a Digital anniversary or at least an anniversary of something mostly Digital, though as I try to categorize it, I find these odd Analog feelings welling up. Pride, wonder, gratitude, nostalgia all come marching in around the details, the discrete facts of the anniversary. Perhaps this is the nature of anniversaries, a blending of the Digital and the Analog, the discrete and clearly distinguishable mixed up and wrapped in intangibles of emotion and surmise, the mere data of event purified in a crucible of context and experience to pure meaning.
This particular moment in time was the release of a software suite, WiscWorld 1.0, to the University of Wisconsin – Madison students. Continue reading
If you’ve followed this little rant for any period of time, you’ve probably noticed that I pretty regularly position Digital as something “other” from our natural world of continuous experience. One of the main indicators of that “otherness” is Digital’s DNA which breaks continuous experience into discrete segments, bit and bytes in the case of the boxes. Like any good modern, that makes me paranoid that something is getting lost on the editing room floor in between the bits and bytes as engineers decide what matters and what doesn’t.
OOOOPS!!!! Turns out there is more similarity between that Digital editing and my conception of continuous Analog experience than meets the eye. It would seem in creating our Digital spawn, we recreated or maybe just amplified, our own tendencies to edit, and edit heavily.