The Next Phase of the Digital Revolution

Source: Vanity Fair, Oct 2014

The next phase of the Digital Revolution will bring a fuller fusion of technology with the creative industries, such as media, fashion, music, entertainment, education, literature, and the arts. Much of the early innovation involved pouring old wine—books, newspapers, opinion pieces, journals, songs, television shows, movies—into new, digital bottles. But now completely new forms of expression and media formats are emerging. Role-playing games and interactive plays are merging with collaborative modes of storytelling and augmented realities. People are creating multi-media books that can be crowd-sourced and wikified but also curated. Instead of pursuing mere artificial intelligence, people are finding ways to partner the power of the computer with that of the human mind.

In this new era, the primary role for humans will be the same as it was 20 years ago. Human entrepreneurs and innovators will supply the imagination, the creativity, and the ability, as Steve Jobs would say, to think different.

The people who succeed will be the ones who can link beauty to engineering, humanity to technology, and poetry to processors. In other words, it will come from creators like those on this year’s list, who can flourish where the arts intersect with the sciences and who have a rebellious sense of wonder that opens them to the beauty of both.

IDEO Design Kit

Source: IDEO website, Oct 2014

IDEO Design Kit

5 Lessons from the Digital Revolution

Source: Vanity Fair, Oct 2014

  1. Connect art and science.
    “I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics,” Steve Jobs told me when I embarked on his biography. “Then I read something . . . about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” It made him the most successful innovator of our time.
    … in the combining of arts and technology, the role of humans would be to supply creativity and imagination.
  2. Creativity comes from collaboration.
    most innovations of the Digital Age were done collaboratively.
  3. Collaboration works best in person.
  4. Vision without execution is hallucination.

  5. Man is a social animal.
    Almost every digital tool, whether designed for it or not, was commandeered by humans to create communities, facilitate communication, share things, and enable social networking.


Human-Machine Symbiosis

Source:  Gizmod0, Oct 2014

the narrative of my book is that instead of pursuing the mirage of artificial intelligence, in which machines will think without us, what’s been particularly successful and will be in the future is making even more intimate connections between ourselves and our machines—having them much more embedded into our lives.

Q: Alan Turing is a fascinating figure. But in your discussion of AI you point to the limits of viewing computing as akin to human thinking. You’re more sympathetic to augmented intelligence, of using powerful machines as collaborators to human creativity. Why is that?

WI: When you look at the history of the past 50 years, the leaps have come from forging more intimate connections between humans and machines, rather than creating machines that don’t benefit from the connection of human creativity. So the concept that we’re about to reach a singularity where machines will be able to do things without us doesn’t seem to follow the data points we have of the past 50 years.

I do believe that economic inequality and a lack of economic opportunity for much of our society is the political, economic, and moral issue of our time.

I wouldn’t blame the app economy or the sharing economy for either causing this problem nor solving this problem. But I think if we dedicate ourselves as a society to making sure that digital tools are used to produce economic opportunity for everybody and a shared prosperity for everybody, that would be great for the whole economy and more importantly it would be the moral thing to do.

Q: What should we take away from the history of the digital age?

WI: America is still the most fertile ground for innovation because we have rebellious and curious people. We have an entrepreneurial spirit, a tolerance for risk and failure. However, there are some things we should pay attention to. One is making sure that everybody gets included in this revolution, including people born in less privileged zip codes and including women.

It’s very important that we use our technology to improve the educational opportunities for all, rather than focusing only on apps that, you know, crowdsource the ratings of restaurants.

That’s not something government can force. I think it’s what we all do as a society ever since the days of Benjamin Franklin. To use his words: “How can we do well by doing good?” I think the next phase of the digital revolution can be more inclusive. I hope.

Additional Resources:

Washington Post, Oct 2014

Isaacson instead eyes the future of collaborative creativity with a clarion call for “poetical science.” He champions the merger of art and technology at the heart of the most successful innovators, from Lovelace to Jobs. “The Innovators,” he writes, is a story of the progress of human-computer symbiosis, not artificial intelligence. Its next phase “will bring even more new methods of marrying technology with . . . media, fashion, music, entertainment, education, literature, and the arts.” Indeed, the world’s universities (including my own) are fast at work building infrastructure to instill a “rebellious sense of wonder” in students lest they and the institutions that train them become historical “bystanders.”


What will bring about these poetical innovators? A diverse ecosystem is vital; timing matters; you need venture capital; and a functioning government; big ideas develop across generations; it helps if your mother is a mathematician; war is an engine of change; you never know whom you’ll meet on a train platform; childhood books shape us profoundly; and on and on. But digital geeks scouring their Kindles for insight in this latter-day “Lives” also will find that a basic secret endures — conviction that the best of all possible worlds is limited only by imagination.

 Simon and Schuster website, Oct 2014

I also became interested in how the quest for artificial intelligence—machines that think on their own—has consistently proved less fruitful than creating ways to forge a partnership or symbiosis between people and machines. In other words, the collaborative creativity that marked the digital age included collaboration between humans and machines.

“Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prizes” talk in Singapore

Source: Nanyang Technological University/Singapore, Oct 2014

If you happen to be in Singapore on 31st Oct, 2014 …


Professor Lars Brink
Former Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physics
Department of Fundamental Physics,
Chalmers University of Technology

Professor Lars Brink will talk about Alfred Nobel and his founding of the Nobel Prizes, as well as the statutes behind them. He will also give examples from physics on how Alfred Nobel’s will was implemented and finished by Einstein’s Nobel Prize, which was very special from many angles.

Nobel Image

Top US Colleges (ranked by student SAT scores)

Source: Psychology Today, Oct 2014

US Universities ranked by SAT Scores

<click on the image to enlarge>

Walter Isaacson’s Pearls of Wisdom

Source: Louisiana Cultural Vistas website, date indeterminate

I have been interested in creative people. By creative people I don’t mean those who are merely smart. As a journalist, I discovered that there are a lot of smart people in this world. Indeed, they are a dime a dozen, and often they don’t amount to much. What makes someone special is imagination or creativity, the ability to make a mental leap and see things differently. As Einstein noted, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

… another lesson that is useful when travelling in the realms of gold: that poking fun of the pretensions of the elite is more edifying than imitating them.