How To Become A Centaur

Nicky Case (of Explorable Explanations and Parable of the Polygons internet fame) has a fantastic essay which picks up on the theme of my last Cyberselves post – technology as companion, not competitor.

In How To Become A Centaur Case gives blitz history of AI, and of its lesser known cousin IA – Intelligence Augmentation. The insight that digital technology could be a a ‘bicycle for the mind’ (Steve Jobs’ quote) gave us the modern computer, as shown in the 1968 Mother of All Demos which introduced the world to the mouse, hypertext, video conferencing and collaborative working. (1968 people! 1968! As Case notes, 44 years before google docs, 35 years before skype).

We’re living in the world made possible by Englebart’s demo. Digital tools, from mere phones to the remote presence they enable, or the remote action that robots are surely going to make more common, and as Case says:

a tool doesn’t “just” make something easier — it allows for new, previously-impossible ways of thinking, of living, of being.

And the vital insight is that the future will rely on identifying the strengths and weakness of natural and artificial cognition, and figuring out how to harness them together. Case again:

When you create a Human+AI team, the hard part isn’t the “AI”. It isn’t even the “Human”.

It’s the “+”.

The article is too good to try to summarise. Read the full text here

Cross-posted at the Cyberselves blog.

Previously: Tools, substitutes or companions: three metaphors for thinking about technology, Cyberselves: How Immersive Technologies Will Impact Our Future Selves