For some months, I’ve had a vision of Google as a desert with tumbleweed blowing across the empty span of top 10+ page results. I just don’t know what to do with it. The feeling that though there’s so much information available at my fingertips, I can’t find exactly what I need. Nor do I know how to beat the search engine algorithm that plays tricks with my mind. Almost suddenly, though Google is still a mammoth, I have this overwhelming sense that there’s a surprise just around the corner.
Everywhere I turn, I’m bombarded with what to most are just buzzwords: Artificial intelligence, quantum computing, machine learning, Internet of Things. Yet when I perform a quick Google search on the latest technologies, it’s like a ghost town, in terms of cutting-edge relevance or up-to-date research. Am I the only one looking for more? A holistic picture of these mysterious technologies which most of us will never intimately know? Sure, I know my cell phone listens to me and serves me eerily related ads to the conversation I just had with my mom. Absolutely, I’m aware that I have a closer relationship with some of my apps than with certain relatives. But I don’t have a front seat view to how it’s all happening to me, and why.
There are specialists, who know coding, hardware, software, virtual environments and much more than I can name as a generalist. But, they’re all in their own little world. This collective body of knowledge is gaining ground on us so much as human beings, that we’re naively unaware, believing that what we don’t know can’t hurt us. We know how to use our phones (some of us better than others), but we don’t know what our phones know about us. We understand that cryptocurrency can be traded, but we don’t know the first thing about how blockchain works.
I hate it. The feeling of being professionally arm-twisted into the unknown, where we all get excited about the hype but don’t see far enough down the road to know where we’re going—what it really means to program isolated bots for performing tasks. It’s great that we’re smart enough to apply technological savvy for improving productivity and increasing revenue, but it’s scary that we’re not the programmers. We all have great ideas, but few of us know how the pieces fit together, much less for the longer-term business strategy.
It’s difficult to find the balance between Negative Nelly who’s slowing down the organization or system because she’s afraid of change versus being viewed as a strategist who cares about leaving a sustainable legacy that doesn’t look like a messy patchwork of quick wins in the name of technological advancement. We’re no longer waiting for robots to takeover. We are the robots and there’s this growing body of knowledge that can’t be contained. Or understood. Or even intelligently applied.
What we don’t know will hurt us, but it might also help us. The trade-off is surrendering to the fact that Google is no longer enough to help us stay ahead of the curve. We are now a part of an informal consortium who must decide how to carefully handle our ignorance—the ticking time bomb of nuclear proportions. What is it that you don’t know, that might hurt you?