Knowledge at Our Fingertips; You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

We have spent the first half of June exploring concerns and dangers of our ever-emerging digital world.  This is the first of four articles which looks at the incredible benefits it brings us. There are plenty of reasons to celebrate.

Learning things, gaining knowledge, and wisdom which came with great patience and effort only a few years ago now lies at our fingertips.  Information once stored away at libraries and museums is just as easily accessible as your favorite television show.  Poetry, literature, art, science, and technology can be studied and explored at a whim from the comfort of home. How miraculous and exciting to live in such an age.

Some of my grown children and spouses make a living in the technology fields.  One is a Data Quality Manager, another Director of Technology Recruiting and a third is an Account Executive Manager of Cloud Technologies.  Our son, who just came back from an international convention in Nashville, was explaining to us how a new program solves logistic problems as easily as organizing Lego's.  His father-in-law, an accounting professor, chirped in that he was lost in whatever Steven was describing.  Though not exactly lost myself, our techy pro was telling the story of languages and applications which mystify me in so many ways.

I am no neophyte to computers.  My experiences began with them back in early 1971 when, as a young behaviorist working with troubled boys, I learned Fortran in an effort to use computers to predict adolescent behavior.  It didn't work.  My guess is that even the newest programs and languages explained by our son couldn't accomplish that heady task.  But you never know. Long story short, I was hooked on the burgeoning technology right then and there.  Over the years I have modernized hospital communications between treatment teams using personal computers, created programs to diagnose the severity of addictive illness while inventing individual strategies for recovery, and on and on.  But here I am today, swimming in a sea of technological evolution which overwhelms my head, heart, and gut.  Extraordinary wonders await us which are just around the corner...and we are at that corner already. It is developing at lightning speed and not a single aspect of life is devoid of tech influence and guidance.

Five Awesome Digital Wisdom Revolutions

  1. Human Brain Project: Research neuroscientists are mapping the brain creating a 3D atlas stitching together thousands of brain cross-sections showing details as small as a human cell. This will advance neuroscience medicine in ways unimaginable a decade ago.
  2. Three Dimensional Printing: Architecture, engineering, medicine, aerospace, and the auto industry (to name a few) are all using this amazing technology to make things in new and innovative ways.  Home users are creating projects that are mind-blowing.  You can get an industrial grade 3D printer on Amazon for $1,500 and have it shipped with a guaranteed delivery date in four days.  Yikes.
  3. E-Learning for Anyone: It's not just for school kids anymore.  E-Learning (technology-based learning) is an industry that has been embraced by schools, corporations, teachers, and students of every ilk. Lee Ann Obringer, Communications Director of The Walking Classroom Institute says that "E-learning is to classroom learning as cell phones are to a pay phone at the bus station." It provides self-paced programs at low cost in convenient locations with continually updated content. What a benefit for traditional and non-traditional learning milieu.
  4. Artificial Intelligence: AI is the replication of human intelligence by computers.  The technology allows machines to learn from experience in part by recognizing patterns.  New Deep Learning software recognizes speech, identifies images and makes predictions.  Self-Driving cars, medical diagnosis, nanorobots, design/security systems, and personal assistant robots (here comes C-3PO) are all on the AI horizon.
  5. DNA Engineering: Gene editing technology is giving scientists the ability to change our DNA. They can add to, edit or remove genetic material.  There is such great interest in this miraculous medical engineering as it offers new hope in curing diseases such as cancer, sickle cell, mental illness, and HIV among many others. Ethics concerns are valid of course and have halted research in many countries.

There is a seemingly endless list of dynamic digital technologies happening and developing right now.  Managing them in our micro and macro lives are daunting.  Each of us is responsible to the extent of digital impact on ourselves and our families. But one thing is certain...our reality is changing dramatically and will continue to change regardless of any effort to slow it down.  I suggest this...Hold on and enjoy the ride.