The Digital Revolution Is Over... Or Not

Enough with your "Digital revolution, ever-changing technology world." There's nothing new under our digital skies: Big data will soon become All data; much of humanity is already connected to the web and/or on Facebook; we have billions of apps, smartphones, tablets and endless computing-power infested devices, from cars to pets and basket balls. Software and algorithms lurk quietly inside chips that far outnumber humans on the planet; we're printing 3D toys at home; artificial intelligence is 50-years-old but we're still waiting for HAL9000 to speak up; we all agree that biotech and genetic engineering are awesome; Google is building the glasses that Sci-Fi writers described decades ago; and robots are now cool, 20 years after Asimov died.

Star Wars and Star Trek are rebooted as if they were windows machines with faulty DLL', Amazon knows how many toothbrushes we need every year, just like Amex did ages ago, and Coca Cola recently realised that advertising on social networks has no effect on short-term sales. Perhaps soon they'll realise they can drop the "on social networks." Back to the future?

If we zoom out, one can argue that although information and knowledge are more accessible than ever before, it did not stop almost half of Americans from voting for a party that was founded in the 19th century and has made little progress since. Robber barons use Bloomberg and Bombardiers instead of snail mail and horses, and for 50 years we fly Boeings below the speed of sound, accompanied by the very same stewardesses. Dentists are still drilling, as are the oil rigs that feed our cars which still burn oil and ride on four patches of rubber that still go flat when we're in a hurry. Ray Kurzweil believes he will live forever, which reminds me of the fascinating Seekers cult case from the 50s that was described in the book When Prophecy Fails. And anyway, there's no proof that we're any happier than we were twenty or a hundred years ago. Au Contraire.

On the other hand, the technology believers (yes, it's a religion) tell us that we're getting nearer to the technology singularity -- that acceleration itself is being accelerated, its progress made exponential, and quickly approaching the "knee bend" after which we will not be able to predict (and perhaps control) the implications of new technologies. No one knows if they're right or wrong, maybe because their argument is somewhat self-defeating; how can one know something that's beyond one's ability to know? Again, there's a faith system at work here, even if it's an intellectualized and agnostic one.

Personally, I think (and believe...) the technology cult is probably right, and the digital revolution is far from over. It's actually in its infancy. However, the revolution seems to be over in our hearts and minds, mostly because we now (excluding geek fundamentalists) take the amazing progress of the last decades for granted. We fail to see the fundamental shift in the way we communicate with each other and its impact on our culture and way of life. Above all, we seem to have lost the ability to be surprised by new technology -- iPhone 7? A new cancer treatment? Curiosity on Mars? Booooooring. Bombarded by endless waves of innovation, we have become so bored and immune that if tomorrow we will hear that a computer asked its designer why he/she/it was created, or that a young nerd hacked his own brain, it will come as little shock to us, and fade into the rest of the news within hours. Or will it?