I wrote this in order to have something to point to when someone (invariably) starts talking about text as it if will be superseded soon. This is the kind of post I would like to be able to cite/link to/hyperglossary when I am writing articles. How can we do that? How can I bring a long list of my previous work to be inserted at need?
Firstly, I’d like to address the notion that there is more information in speech than text and that speech is therefore somehow richer or more useful. In his groundbreaking book Sapiens (2014), Yuval Noah Harari wrote that writing was invented to solve very different problems than speaking. Speaking with people, and to a degree also to computers, will remain useful, sure. But not for the same reason we use written symbols. Symbols are visual and this expands our mental space simply allowing us to employ our occipital lobe to augment our prefrontal cortex. Symbols are themselves stable and therefore lend themselves to us manipulating them.
Secondly, I feel the need to address the notion that the future is more emoticon and less textual:
It can indeed take a thousand words to describe a picture in any detail–if the purpose is to use words to describe the picture to a degree that someone can re-create it or picture it in their minds–but to turn text into images requires the images to be abstracted to the point of becoming rebuses and then they really are symbols–in other words a form of text. When it comes to communicating something which does not have a literal, figurative analog, such as this sentence, pictures can’t hack it.
Direct Brain Connections
Then there is the issue of neural implants:
A perspective that’s frequently thrown into this ring of ideas is that soon we can just ‘plug connections directly into our brains’ and that means no more computer interfaces or anything like that. However, even such connections would somehow have to show up in our minds in some symbolic form. You would still need to mentally access these symbols somehow. Let’s not discard the brain-world interfaces we have been working on for the past few billion years: our powerful visual systems and nimble hands. We should ask; how can we build systems to better use these two aspects of our physiology to meld our minds to manipulations?
And finally, we are entering an age of AI, Artificial Intelligence. Today we are celebrating Doug, who worked at SRI, same place where Siri was born and Doug certainly appreciated the power of AI but he was more interested in IA, Intelligence Amplification. We need to ask how we can augment our minds rather than simply outsource thinking. To put the question starkly, are we willing to surrender our knowledge work blindly to artificial intelligence constructs entirely, or are we also going to fight for systems to enable us to employ our own intelligence?