The digital future is essentially about how new digital technology or updated existing technology can impact the way we work, interact, make decisions, and imagine new futures. Not all promising innovations will become mainstream, and not all potential improvements will succeed. It is smart to be open-minded about new ideas and to analyze what could happen when they become reality. It is also wise to be skeptical about the world-changing aspects of new technology and take the time to investigate its true potential first.
At its core, a digital system takes input, performs computations, and displays some form of output. At the beginning of the computer era, this was all done on one device: the mainframe computer. Nowadays, there are many devices, and they can be linked together through a network. They can handle a multitude of data that can be taken in on a local level or from some kind of centralized location. There are also many forms output can take, although most of these will be either visual or audible. In laboratories, researchers have managed to extract brainwaves from one person (input), analyze them, and transfer these thoughts through a system (computer) to another person on a different continent, directly into their brain (output)
Computers or other digital devices can enhance our abilities to perform tasks better. They provide ways to expand our memory, improve our eyesight through enlarging pictures, help us project our voices over long distances through different forms of telecommunications, and allow us to hear answers to our questions through the same technological capabilities. One can argue that one aspect of digital systems is the way they augment our own talents and skills.
In addition to helping us perform tasks better and beyond our own human limitations, digital systems can also take over tasks and perform them for us. Instead of us doing them ourselves, computers can perform these tasks even better and quicker. For example, robots can diagnose certain illnesses more accurately and faster than human medical specialists can. Digital assistants can organize events if provided with the right requirements. There are already business models created for digital companies that can provide taxi services without any human involvement in the company.
When you use a map on your phone to assess where you are, that is a form of augmentation. The app giving you instructions on how to navigate to your destination is a form of digital assistance. Although you still have to do the steering yourself and you are still in control of your own destiny. The Uber version (pun intended) of digital assistance is of course the self-driving car, even though one can argue that a self-driving car is a form of augmentation, improving your driving skills.
To support both augmentation and digital assistance, infrastructure is needed and cloud computing is offering the best potential platform at the moment, with cloud computing integrated and connected to a lot of different devices, networks, and systems. Sharing data across these platforms provides both a lot of opportunities as well as serious threats. While this has the potential to make our lives a lot better, it has already proven that it can make some people’s lives miserable and even threaten people’s fundamental being. Balancing the potential of platforms while limiting all kinds of threats and risks is going to be an important human task