Emergent Code is written as a wake-up call, a wonderland and also a handbook. It’s a way of making sense of what might our future be as digital humans.
It comes from thinking about the massive failure we have let into our society. We have failed to let our world be a safe and welcoming place. It is a place where people cannot rest without there being a tariff to do so, a place with more suspicion than there is sanctuary, where there is more often a call to move on, rather than to belong.
Our so-called intelligence has created a barbed planet, but we have all the resources and capabilities to make it much, much more. If we were to harness them and our ingenuity more intelligently, it could be a plentiful and abundant one.
At the same time as we’re becoming connected, the division and the persecution of those less fortunate is literally being embedded into the architecture all around us.
Systems of ground control may be a necessary element in managing a human population digitally, but they also ask where we draw the line about human rights and what might be an acceptable quality of life for the ‘minimum viable human’.
People are beginning to call for new morals, new ethics and new codes.
Where we are today, and with the power that we can utilise using code, what will we choose? What do we want for the world a thousand years from now, in 3015? Code can make that happen. To a digital native it might be almost obvious to say that it can be realised and the coded world can make it real.
I’m not a digital native. I have the luxury of being able to look back at when the world was completely without code, to observe a shift from the perspective of half a century, of life before and after the internet, and the slow and sometimes imperceptible transitions that influence our world.
When Sir Tim Berners-Lee introduced the first hyperlinks that led to the creation of the World Wide Web 25 years ago, the far-sightedness of his initiative unwittingly unleashed a chain of events, a tsumani of free-flowing information, that began to ripple, and then rip, through our social and commercial lives and it has been doing so ever since.
Few people back then had any idea how all-encompassing the idea of a connected world would become. And few since have failed to be delighted by the opportunity and freedom it affords each and every one of us as individuals on the planet.
Wind things back a little earlier, and fifty years before Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s invention, the discovery by another 20th century titan, J. Robert Oppenheimer, about how to split the atom, created a different and similarly awe-inspiring step change in human power and its potential capability.
When you look at both of these together, they are events that create a rubicon of scientific advancement of such magnitude that an entire realm of both physical and virtual capability, including the destruction and creation of humankind, is now at our disposal.
These are irreversible forces that shape how deal with one another and that raise questions about the way we live life on Earth.
Despite widespread cynicism just 20 years ago, there isn’t a single industry today that hasn’t been affected by the tumultuous impact of the digital technology and the Web.
Its power is working its way through the world with an unparalleled force and influence.
Though there have been naysayers, digital technology and business modeling is stripping out everything superfluous to it and showing its potency. Code is finding inevitable shortcuts capable of unlocking whole new dimensions of interaction and value. Code is made by the geeks who are indeed inheriting the earth.
But, despite all its wonder, the digital revolution has yet to solve many of the world’s big problems. In some ways, the impact of code has been a destabilising one. The digital economy is playing its own part in acerbating problems of inequality, skills gaps, economic uncertainty and the fuelling of negative social contagion.
Our co-dependency with code has the scope to be used as a weapon of mass coercion as much as mass collaboration, and code is a force every bit as brutal in its dissection of life-as-we-know-it, as the technology of war from which it has sprung.
We’re dealing with a new system-wide influence which, by nature, is not empathic. So, the viable futures of the generations to come depend on us understanding there is a minimum viable product for quality of life and to create the scripts we can run to achieve it.
As Sophocles said, ‘Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse’. I believe it is only by holding each of these considerations in balance that we can truly transcend them.
This is an enquiry into that challenge, while there is the chance to look back as well as forward at the advent of the digital age, to reflect on a life before code and on what will come.
This blog book is designed as a stimulating, thought-provoking and practical resource for individuals-at-large and large corporates alike, who are considering what we measure economically, what we value and how we change.
It is written in the full awareness and knowledge that is it not the truth. There is no single, simple truth. The thoughts here are just one perspective.
The web is a picture we are all making as we go. In writing, I have tried to listen to as many views of others as I can and to include them here. You’ll see them in quotes, in images, snapshots, and the references that will be included from a large number of sources.
There are a great number of good people who’ve inspired me and whose work has helped fuel the momentum of getting this endeavour together.
For you reading now, your thoughts and dreams mingled with what’s written here will hopefully help you, and others around you, find fruitful directions as digital humans in this new era.
We have it in our sights to make the nature of the digital human smarter, and better, than anything that’s gone before. It starts with the wish that for all of us, engaged in coding a future life emerging, the best is yet to come.
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