|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
This time next week I'll be attending and later blogging about the first afternoon of a symposium on The Evaporation of Things, which discusses the cultural and intellectual consequences of the digitisation and virtualisation of physical, and particularly of biological, objects. A couple of weeks ago, in a BBC programme on Google's attempt to digitise all written knowledge, someone was quoted as saying: 'Google isn't building a library - it's building an AI!' And today I read a much-tweeted piece on how Google Glass plus some existing/easily foreseeable applications and algorithms such as face recognition and voice recognition and speech-to-text transcription will make everything we say and do within sight of the damn things recordable and indexable and searchable forever.
The physical world is on its way to becoming as searchable as a database. As real-time surveillance from satellites and drones and sensors increases asymptotically to ubiquity, the knowledge won't even have to be recorded first. We'll be able to, as it were, google Earth.
Almost all recorded knowledge from the earliest bone-scratchings to your latest Tweet via the Library of Congress are all going to be in a single searchable virtual space.
Add to this that there is an uncountable number of deductions that could be made from what we already know, but that we haven't made -- or perhaps can't make in our heads, because they are of the type that Charles Dodgson identified long ago as 'pork chop problems', and which now look entirely soluble using modern symbolic logic and lots of computer power.
What seems to follow from this is that a large and growing part of the science of the future will be not finding new results but making new discoveries by connecting hitherto isolated drops in the ocean of facts we already know. The key skill will be formulating algorithms. Research becomes Re:Search.
Have I just discovered data mining, or is there something more here that we aren't thinking about yet?