1.25 An emergent ‘us’
Access to the internet has been defined as a basic human right by the United Nations. This is an age of two-way interactivity, where every digital human has a voice, an imagination and a unique ability to contribute. Everyone will make the Digital Era what it is. What are we going to do with that?
If we accept the idea that freedom of expression is an enlightened and preferred state of being, and we appreciate the importance of developing greater powers of human expression for the digital human instead of limiting it (this is an advantage, especially when competing with robots), it follows that cultivating organic interactivity across the web will create the most value out of it as a territory.
Natural and spontaneous behaviour will enable humans to be more of themselves and attain higher possibilities as a result of fusing code with the human condition. This is less likely to come from gamification or behavioural techniques that herd digital activity into pre-determined pens of engagement or social media walled gardens like sheep. Products will be designed to meet real needs, rather than the ones we prescribe because we think we know our audiences.
The cultural leaps made in the Renaissance gave humankind vision and perspective. Being connected might mean a new human enlightenment may emerge from a better understanding of ourselves in relationship to others. Digital humanity as an emergent and evolved species can develop a more nuanced mental and emotional intelligence. This is an enlightenment that may involve greater development of empathy, increased understanding of complexity, feeling comfortable with paradox and being able to hold opposable views simultaneously.
I think of the networked world as a rhizomatic central nervous system in pursuit of quality experiences, growing constantly, consciously and unconsciously, through the digital connections we make. We can evolve as digital humans by understanding what it is that we choose to connect to and the pathways we create and configure as a result of this pursuit.
As machine learning becomes ubiquitous, code is the conduit for this awareness. Encoding and processing experiences into digital media is how we capture, share and learn about the qualities of worldly experiences and what they feel like. Code is becoming the interface that tells us how we can think, act and feel online in ways that can either be useful, enjoyable and inspired or meaningless and instantly forgettable.
As the ancient civilizations of the Fertile Crescent once created inventory, we are creating new inventory, the digital life that we post online.
It is a new, virtual state of existence. Scripting codes are our modern hieroglyphics. Networked communications are our frescoes and all of it is how we can tell our best stories.
In this new state of existence, we’re beginning to see how contemporary power is increasingly networked. The hashtag is one element of this. It’s evident too in how ideas spread and the viral nature of engagement online.
Commercially and politically, a post- capitalist world is emerging. Our developing relationship with the web as part of that might mean the conclusions we draw today about power today move on a little from Machiavelli’s. If we wish to thrive using code, an evolved set of power laws might be rooted more in the distributed policies for the Commons and open data rather than on secret deals done in the dark.
Organisation is being reconceived as the act of coming together to make things happen, more of a digital maypole today than four walls and a sign outside the door. Digital organisations are nodes made up of people and data that coalesce, responsively, to generate valuable, measurable outcomes. Organisation-as-the-act-of-organising is real time, it is dynamic, instead of a fixed and mechanical thing. It’s geared to meeting collective needs more than pushing product, recognising we have an abundance of resources.
These digital dynamics are powering the propagation of ideas in evolving ways, and they can create meaning and sustain value from us being connected. Businesses that have grown exponentially through word of mouth using collaborative business models know that fortunes can and are being built on broad consensus and the wisdom of the crowd.
By exposing ourselves to data and other people in large numbers, we are already creating outcomes based on where we put our attention. How we read and recognize what influences us online is part of a new digital literacy.
Machine learning has a part to play in unravelling twisted logic. It can support an emergent ‘us’. We scribe this process through the keystrokes we make. Our imperative, as humans instead of robots, is to use the choice to do it consciously.
And that is the essential, irreducible truth in code: The binary nature of the digital domain is that it contains both bits and bytes, and we are not able to trade one for the other. Code isn’t just about programming. Code’s power now is the power of our networks with all of us operating as unique identifiers. We are part of a wholeness containing technical ability, and human empathy and artistry, combined, to create better human experiences.