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.
“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