I read “Get Smart” without any reference to Maxwell Smart by Jamais Cascio in the July/Aug Atlantic Online magazine. The focus of the article was on how technology is making us smarter. Those who don’t take advantage of technology and pharmacology might be at a competitive disadvantage, increasingly so in the future.
We are still biased towards near-term solutions and winners will need to plan for and understand long-term risks. Today we are getting smarter through what Jamais describes as intelligence augmentation.
While Nicholas Carr (“Is Google Making Us Stupid“) argues that the Internet with its information dense, hyperlink-richness makes it harder for us to engage in deep, relaxed contemplation, Steven Johnson (Everything Bad is Good), argues that the increasing complexity of the media we engage with, is making us smarter. With this intelligence, we are able to make connections and see patterns in order to avoid being overwhelmed by this information glut.
As a competitive intelligence professional, I am expected to uncover patterns to predict where a competitor, the market or technology is going, so ” getting smarter” really resonates, especially from the information glut, never mind the increased connections due to social networks.
What’s exciting about the future is how tools for managing information overload are being developed. Fluid intelligence, the ability to find meaning in confusion and solve new problems, independent of this knowledge, is what competitive intelligence professionals do today. Just imagine how much more powerful we’ll be in the future.
When I interviewed some competitive technical intelligence (CTI) experts for my chapter in CI Foundation’s Competitive Technical Intelligence, these experts were already using some great visualization tools to harness the tons of information they must process to compete in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, for example. Several experts cited Eastport Analytics as a resource to help CTI managers select the right software tools to support their needs for monitoring, mapping and analyzing the competitive marketplace. Eastport Analytics offers 450 software tools and stays informed with all the latest software changes, upgrades and new providers.
Jamais writes about the development of attention filters or focus assistants which would focus our attention on messages that are important to us, based on learning what kinds of messages we are reading and which we discard through the various media we subscribe to. We would move from a world of “continuous partial attention” to one of “continuous augmented awareness,” as the messages we don’t care about would be faded on our display screen, for example. As our capacity to provide that filter becomes faster and richer, it becomes akin to collaborative intuition.
Pharmacology can also help enhance the brain. Modafinil, originally developed to keep people alert for an extended period of time like 30 hours, also provides cognitive enhancements, such as pattern recognition, spatial planning and sharpens focus and alertness. There are other brain boosting drugs, but the point is that people seeking competitive advantage may include brain drugs to improve their competitiveness.
The article also goes into the development of an artificial mind which would continue to modify itself to get smarter. That seems pretty far out to me.
However, I agree with the conclusions of the article that by 2030, we’ll live in a world where sophisticated foresight, detailed analysis and insight and augmented awareness will be commonplace. Many professionals will use simulation and modeling in their daily work as the supporting technology will be readily available.
While cultures may adopt these technologies differently, hopefully our global diversity will help us be cooperative and cope with the various world dangers such as the climate crisis, energy shortage, growing population density, global hunger, global healthcare and the spread of pandemics, which will require the greatest possible insight, creativity and innovation.