2.1 On code – From us but not us

For the first time in human history, we’ve a new pivotal relationship in our lives. It’s with the digital world and with code.

Code is a dominant force created by humans. At the same time, it is something else, quite radically different from ourselves. Never before have we co-existed with an intelligent, inorganic life this way.

The digital world is a place that we humans are likely to be connected to, in some way or another now, forever more. As an operating environment, this may have a profound effect upon us. It may alter who we are and our conscious sense of what we want out of life.

Unsettling, maybe even scary as that may sound, the genie is out of the bottle. We are in gestation as the first children of the Digital Era.

In the context of the chronicles of time, early development is where we are with the Web. We are the embryos in its great placenta, the first forms of digital life.

When we become embodied media beacons, when our interactions are distilled into ‘Likes’ and ‘+1’s’ and aggregated as data, it is hard to be certain where we are headed. It’s not clear whether our senses will be enhanced by technology, or discreetly obliterated by it.

We have a choice about what it is to be digital, and we can play an active part in shaping that choice.

Born into the Digital Era we, and the generations that come after us, have a human birthright to protect. It will be sustained by us finding out what makes us better at being human in the digital age, and doing so in a way that combines the curiosity of children with the wisdom of elders.

Children today are active online as part of their nature. Those born now will have a data footprint that records their actions and activity in the tiniest detail throughout the whole of their lives.

Technology will soon be capable of capturing their every twitch and gesture they make through their wearable devices.

These children’s interactions with the world will be monitored. So will what they think and feel if they share it. But how well will these online existences be able to capture deep, moving moments, what matters to us as individuals, the experiences that make us tingle, the magic epiphanies and insights that light us up in wonder about how we can see the world?

The formative moments that are part of the white heat and the thrill of life are not machine made; these, too, should be allowed to shape us and make an impact as part of our memory.

How well is code going to add to our human heritage? How well is it going to help us understand the passage of time and what it teaches us, and how is it going to make us better as humans? It’s hard to tell right now.

What we do know is that we’re forming an umbilical connection to it.

If you are reading this, you’re a witness to the first stages of connected life, the time when we first emerge as a wired-up species.

As the digital environment matures, what’s the ideal blend of humanity and machine… and where do we start in co-creating it with technology?

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