Blog

From Atoms to Bits

Thursday, October 19, 2017
Jeff Giampalmi


The way we learn is changing from memorizing linear facts to "remixing" knowledge into new and innovative patterns.

Inspired by "From atoms to 'bits': The trend shifting the human mind toward creativity and innovation" by Doug Grunther for Trends Journal

Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer simply a fixture in popular fiction and scientific speculation. From the very near prospect of driverless cars to "smart" homes, our relationship to artificial intelligent systems begs the inevitable question, 'Where do we end and they begin?' An early illustration of the role that these systems would come to play in our everyday life is when Kevin Kelly, executive editor of Wired Magazine, attended a party in 2002 thrown by Larry Page, the co-founder of Google.

Kevin said to Larry, "I still don't get it. There are so many search companies. Web search for free? Where does that get you?"
Larry responded, "Oh, we're really making an AI."

Kevin Kelly knew then that Google wasn't upgrading its AI portfolio to improve its search engine. Instead, it was enhancing the search engine to make its AI smarter. Whenever we type in a search term or go to a website, we connect with a panoply of information and Google's AI learns more about how humans think.

Through the innovation of both human intelligence and the unlimited possibilities of the digital world, the global economy is moving from material objects to intangible, non-material forms. Traditional paradigms of commerce no longer dominate our financial landscape. Tom Goodwin of the Internet technology news source TechTarget said, "The world's largest taxi company (Uber) owns no vehicles... Alibaba, the world's most valuable retailer, has no inventory. Airbnb (the world's largest accommodation provider) owns no real estate."

Because the world is shifting from ownership of material goods to accessing services, these services can be unbundled and recombined in new ways based on user preference. This remodeling is obvious in the music business, where we are no longer limited to songs on a CD in a specific sequential order. We can now download any song and create a unique playlist from five different artists. As a result, we are shifting our thinking from "sequential and logical" to "creative and intuitive." The way we learn is changing from memorizing linear facts to "remixing" knowledge into new and innovative patterns. Thus, we are now patterning our behavior after the digital systems that we created, theoretically shifting from atoms to bits.

Grunther summarizes our complex and evolving relationship with technology by the following: "The reality is that, going forward, we will give up tasks requiring memory, sequence, and logic to computers. We are entering an emerging environment in which all traditional IQ we need will be provided by inexpensive, reliable computer intelligence running behind everythingnot only smartphones and TVs but 'smart' cars, buildings, and entire environments. Everything we formally electrified we will now cognitize. To take advantage of this new reality, we need to use the expanded gateways of the digital environment to tap into our brain's capacity for creativity, innovation, and 'big picture' thinking."