A little over two years ago, on April 5, 2015, my seminal world-view essay was published: Information → Knowledge → Wisdom: Progression of Society in the Age of Computers. I wrote about the rapid changes in society caused by personal computers and set out my theory of three stages of social development. This is my theory of the world, or as Thomas Friedman now puts it, a theory of how the Machine works. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations (11/16/16) (“To be an opinion writer, you need to be carrying around a working hypothesis of how the Machine works. … If you don’t have a theory … you’ll either push it in a direction that doesn’t accord with your beliefs, or you won’t move it at all.)
The Information → Knowledge → Wisdom essay included twelve predictions with a foolishly short timeline of only five to twenty years, from 2020 to 2035. As I explained in the essay, the purpose of these predictions was to test the accuracy of my hypothesis that we are in the first, dangerous Information stage of an Age of Computers and will quickly transition to one based on knowledge. Either that, or we would all perish and otherwise slip into a dystopia. The Information stage of computer technology is that dangerous. The events of the past twelve months have proven that point to my satisfaction and great regret.
Predictions that test your theories are something that smart opinion writers like Thomas Friedman never do. The future is hard to predict. Predictions often fail and so discredit the author’s ideas. I knew this, but am more concerned with truth than success. If my theory of how the Machine works is wrong, no one wants to know this more than me. For this reason I was willing, even eager, to put my Information → Knowledge → Wisdom theory out there in 2015 for the future to judge as right or wrong. Time will tell if this was foolish or wise. By 2035, or maybe earlier, I will either look very smart, or will be proven to be yet another delusional computer guru.
My predictions all concerned the transition of a society from one based on Information, in which we now live, to a society based on Knowledge. As I explained the transition from mere Information to Knowledge is a necessary survival step for society, not an idealistic dream. My 2015 essay warned of the dangers society faces if we stay stuck in a mere Information society and do not quickly evolve into one based on Knowledge. Unfortunately, we have seen many of these dangers accelerate over the last year.
I consider the next Knowledge Age to again be a transition step to the ultimate goal of a society based on Wisdom. My predictions did not address this last step to Wisdom because this step is too far out time-wise for any meaningful predictions. It is possible for some individuals to make this step now, but not enough for a whole society to be centered in Wisdom. We have a long way to go to move from an Information to a Knowledge Society before we can make predictions on how a Wisdom based society will arise.
A year after my essay was first published I wrote a follow-up examining how the twelve predictions had played out the in the first year. How The 12 Predictions Are Doing That We Made In “Information → Knowledge → Wisdom” (April 5, 2016). They generally did well, which, I posit tends to prove that my theory of Computer culture is true. This essay assumes that you have read last year’s status report. Here I will reexamine all twelve predictions in the second year, April 2016 to April 2017. I will also necessarily examine the dangers that I warned about concerning an Information based society.
Dangers of the First Stage Information Era in the Age of Computers
I want to first deal with the dangers and warnings that I made in 2015 before examining the twelve predictions. No, I did not foresee Donald Trump’s election, nor the interference in the democratic processes by the Russians. I made no specific predictions on the dark-side of the transition information era, but I did foresee many general dangers. I specifically spoke of the need to Cross-check and Verify. Here are the essential quotes from my original essay concerning the dangers of our current transition time:
The spike and distribution of online information is just a first major consequence of the New Age of Computation. It will not be the last. The focus on information alone will soon change, indeed, must soon change. The information explosion is nowhere near the final goal. Information alone is dangerous and superficial. Our very survival as a society depends on our quick transition to the next stage of a computer culture, one where Knowledge is the focus, not Information.
We must now quickly evolve from shallow, merely informed people with short attention spans, and superficial, easily manipulated insights, to thoughtful, knowledgeable people. Then ultimately, some day, we must evolve to become truly wise people. …
Media seems to be the chief villain of the superficial information society, but it can quickly change as people change. …
Transition Beyond an Information Society is a Survival Imperative
This journey, this progress of our technology culture, is not an idle dream. It is a survival imperative. Information alone, unprocessed, and not yet converted to knowledge, is dangerous. I imagine that some planets in this enormous Universe of ours get stuck and never make it to the next step. These other worlds destroy themselves with too much information and not enough knowledge. They self-destruct in various new technology scenarios, from nuclear holocaust, to climate destruction, to Big Brother dictatorships, to self-obsessed, stagnating, shallow, greedy, short attention span news-junkie people. All of these cultural disasters could well await our own planet.
There are so many ways that a culture based on Information, not Knowledge, can go wrong and either destroy itself, or stagnate, and never make it to the end game of freedom and justice for all. The transformation from an Information society to a Knowledge society must happen quickly if we are to survive and prosper. …
We have to know to act, and so we need to go beyond an information society, and we have to do it fast. If we do not, the dark side of technology could soon overwhelm us. Stop just reading. Stop just being informed. It is not enough. Think. Process. Analyze. Cross-check. Verify. Take action. Create. Share. Teach. Teamwork. …
Without knowledge, information can easily become misinformation, alternative facts. Did the Pope really endorse Donald Trump for president? If you get your news from some media, especially social media, if you live in an information bubble, you will never know. You will be greedy and self-obsessed. You will be easily manipulated.
Are we well-informed, or misinformed? As I said in 2015 – Stop just being informed. It is not enough. Think. Process. Analyze. Cross-check. Verify. Will we make it out of these dangerous times? Or will we sink ever deeper into self-obsessed, stagnating, shallow, greedy, short attention span news-junkie people? Will an information only society not grounded in knowledge lead us to nuclear holocaust, to climate destruction, to Big Brother dictatorships? I did not make any specific predictions on that then. I refuse to do so now. It should be obvious to all thinking people that these dangers are much more intense now, than when I wrote about them in 2015. (If you are interested in my political views, follow me on Twitter. But my essay, Information → Knowledge → Wisdom: Progression of Society in the Age of Computers, is apolitical. I do not favor any particular candidates or party, I favor knowledge over information.)
The way to avoid these dangers is to focus on Knowledge, on Wisdom. I try to follow my own advice on what to do to get there: Think. Process. Analyze. Cross-check. Verify. Take action. Create. Share. Teach. Teamwork.
Many of my actions last year were made with this advice in mind. I opened up the doors to the e-Discovery Team Training program, made it all free while updating the program. The Doors Are Thrown Open to all 85-Classes of the e-Discovery Team Training Program. I also created a TAR Course last year, again free, which I continue to update. Announcing the e-Discovery Team’s TAR Training Program: 16 Classes, All Online, All Free – The TAR Course. I also wrote a new book published in late 2016 by the ABA, Announcing Release of My New Book: E-DISCOVERY FOR EVERYONE, and served as editor and contributing author on another, Perspective on Predictive Coding (ABA 2017). Please see the Books page on this blog for more information. I also continue writing the e-Discovery Team blog, once again on a near weekly basis, instead of monthly, as I had previously decided to do. (There will be time enough for rest and golf later (I hope)). I also reluctantly continue my speaking/teaching engagements. The times are now very precarious.
We cannot afford to slow down our efforts. The dangers inherent in our current Information stage are too dire, too terrible and all too real for complacency. Nuclear holocaust, climate destruction, Big Brother dictatorships – any of these fates could await us. The combinations of these dark forces on the peninsula of Korea are particularly worrisome for me right now.
EXAMINING THE TWELVE PREDICTIONS
Here is the first prediction from our 2015 essay, Information → Knowledge → Wisdom: Progression of Society in the Age of Computers.
1. Several inventions, primarily in insanely great new computer hardware and software, will allow for the creation of many new types of cyber and physical inter-connectivity environments. There will be many more places that will help people to go beyond information to knowledge. They will be both virtual realities, for you or your avatars to hang out, and real-world meeting places for you and your friends to go to. They will not be all fun and games (and sex), although that will be a part of it. Many will focus exclusively on learning and knowledge. The new multidimensional, holographic, 3D, virtual realities will use wearables of all kinds, including Oculus-like glasses, iWatches, and the like. Implant technology will also arise, including some brain implants, and may even be common in twenty years. Many of the environments, both real and VR, will take education and knowledge to a new level. Total immersion in a learning environment will take on new meaning. The TED of the future will be totally mind-blowing.
In April 2016, when we first reviewed our twelve predictions, we noted that this one, our top prediction, was well on course to coming true on the early side of the predicted five to twenty year range. How The 12 Predictions Are Doing That We Made In “Information → Knowledge → Wisdom”.
After just spending several hours of research on this today, I was surprised to see how far we have come on this. In fact, I am ready to call it. Our top prediction has already come true. In five years it will be more fully developed, but it is already here. For instance, see:
- Takahashi, VR First is creating 50 labs for virtual reality education at universities (April 13, 2017) (note VR First is just one of many vendors in the area).
- Goldstein, Why AR/VR at Harvard. Why now. (Oct. 10, 2016) (Harvard’s Innovation Labs).
- Top 20 VR educational apps.
- A list of VR educational gear. Also see GearBrain’s 11 Best VR Headsets.
- Virtual Reality for Education.
- VR in Education: What’s Already Happening in the Classroom.
- VR Education.
- Top VR Education Companies:
- Immersive VR Education which simulates a lecture hall in virtual reality, while adding special effects which can’t be utilized in a traditional classroom setting.
- Unimersiv is a VR learning platform which releases educational content on a monthly basis.
- Google Expeditions Pioneer Program. Allows students to take their students anywhere on VR fields trips.
- Alchemy VR is creating immersive educational experiences on an large scale.
- Discovery VR. Taking you to strange, faraway places.
- zSpace. A great social approach to VR reality. Hard to explain in a few words, but this YouTube video demonstrates.
- Curiscope. Another social approach to learning with VR.
- Woofbert VR. focusing on bringing art to VR.
- Nearpod. Uses 360 degree photos and videos with traditional lesson plans.
- Schell Games. Produces fun VR games for kids to teach them in new ways.
- Gamar. Uses VR in museums to enhance educational benefits.
- Think Link. Creates new types of classroom environments.
- EON Reality. Interactive technology. Here is a short video explaining some of the new features they are developing.
Microsoft is also actively promoting its new HoloLens device as an education tool. HoloLens in Education (Microsoft, 10/13/16); #TheFeedUK – HoloLens in Education (Microsoft, 2/15/17). This mixed reality approach using a HoloLens has great promise in the next couple of years as this new gear enters the market.
Yes. This first prediction has already come true. I do not think for a minute that makes up for the other dangers that have materialized in the past year, but it is a positive sign for the future. Now let’s look at the other eleven predictions for what we should see from 2020 to 2035. Remember, these changes will only take place if society is in fact changing from information based, to knowledge based, as I predicted would happen (assuming we do not perish first).
Four Predictions on Social Media and Dissemination of Expertise
2. Some of the new types of social media sites will be environments where subject matter experts (SME) are featured, avatars and real, cyber and in-person, shifted and real-time. There will also be links to other sites or rooms that are primarily information sources.
I am not sure that the POTUS is always a bona fide SME, but the current one is an obsessive user of my favorite social media venue, Twitter. He announces policy there. He tweets there in the middle of the night. The world has never seen anything like this. This is not exactly what I had in mind when I made this prediction, but it is close. Right now Trump is the expert on what the POTUS might do next, that and the last strong person he has talked to.
A better example that I continue to see developing is Quora. This is growing, but there is still a long way to go on this prediction.
3. The new SME environment will include products and services, with both free and billed aspects.
This is also growing, but at an even faster rate than the second prediction, especially for billed services. This may be another one that will beat my five years minimum prediction. See the well-known, but hardly new CraigsList and EMILY’s List. Also see sites oriented at SME services, usually by the hour or project. For instance HighSkill Pro. This is a website where you can hire, in their words, vetted top-tier service providers for one-off projects, experts such as accountants, business consultants and lawyers. Another site, GURU, claims to already have over 1.5 Million expert members. As Guru’s website puts it:
Search for services being offered by freelancers that match your needs. Our global network of over 1.5 million gurus are eager to help with any technical, creative or business projects you have on the table. Explore each freelancer’s profile and browse their previous work so you can hire with confidence.
There are a many other places where you can hire specialty SME type experts of all kinds, often just by the hour. See for instance the following websites: Up Work – claims to be the biggest; Freelancer; Tap Chief; Expertise Finder; People Per Hour; Proposal Gurus; Guild; Expert Networks – list of over 100 different expert networks; Clarity – for start-up advisors; Maven; Zintro; Experfy – Big data analytics oriented; Presto Experts – experts and tutors. I could go on and on. You can Google for more in a specialty area you may be interested in. This prediction is coming true, although it is still short on the kind of online community that I envision.
4. The knowledge nest community environments will be both online and in-person. The real life, real world, interactions will be in safe public environments with direct connections with cyberspaces. It will be like stepping out of your computer into a Starbucks or laid-back health spa.
Although some real-world colleges are becoming more online and digital oriented, real innovation by them in this area is still a few years off. For good background see, Korn & Belkin, Colleges Rush to Ramp Up Online Classes (Wall Street Journal, 4/30/17).
Amazon bookstores, bricks and mortar, started to open in 2015 and is a better example of what I intend by this prediction. They are apparently a success and are growing in number. I for one cannot wait for the return of a quality book store near me with online background. After all, Amazon killed all of the others that used to be here.
More high-tech libraries are also starting to be built. Other, more innovative Knowledge Nest community centers may already be opening, but have not come on my radar yet. They may well grow out of coffee shops, local restaurants, yoga studios and meditation retreat centers. They might also grow out of some of the more innovative shared office space and start-up business incubation centers. We are starting to see some early signs of this.
5. The knowledge focused cyberspaces, both those with and without actual real-words SMEs, will look and feel something like a good social media site of today, but with multimedia of various kinds. Some will have Oculus type VR enhancements like the StarTrek holodeck. All will have system administrators and other staff who are tireless, knowledgeable, and fair; but most will not be human.
This prediction depends in large part on the actualization of the first four. These kind of mature multidimensional cyberspaces will come later, when the other predictions come true, and when AIs are more developed as discussed next. You could argue that the continued explosion and all-pervasiveness of Facebook should be included in this category group, but is still too dominated by information, often misinformation, to be considered a real knowledge nest.
Predictions on AI
Seven of our predictions as to how society will likely transition from an Information Age to a Knowledge Age involved the use of new and improved kinds of artificial intelligence entities. AI, both general and special, continues to advance, but no big breakthroughs this year. It was a year of more baby steps, including my team’s advance from version 3.0 of predictive coding to 4.0. TAR Course. The largest advances seem to be in AI driven transportation.
It seems like to focus of discussion in AI over the past year has been in the twin worries of:
- AI is becoming too smart, too fast, and may soon attain superior intelligence, take over and enslave us all. See eg. Dowd, Elon Musk’s Billion-Dollar Crusade to Stop the A.I. Apocalypse (Vanity Fair 3/26/17).
- AI will replace up to half of all human jobs in the near future, causing mass unemployment and social havoc.
For a good article on the unemployment danger, see Hunter, Here’s how one of Google’s top scientists thinks people should prepare for machine learning (CNBC, 4/29/17). The top Google scientist in this article is Peter Norvig, who says he does not “buy into the killer robot [theory],” but is concerned about job displacement:
It’s easy to see jobs disappearing … [but] it’s hard to see the new jobs that will be invented because they don’t exist yet. There will always be stuff to do. Young people starting on their career path shouldn’t necessarily be discouraged by machine learning, or abandon career aspirations because of it. Find something [you’re] interested in that provides something that people want, and think deeply about it. Be aware of the various technologies and be able to use them, and apply them to whatever field you’re interested in.
I write about the job loss issue in this blog often and have the same views as Norvig concerning the legal profession. Lawyers’ Job Security in a Near Future World of AI, Part Two. Also see: Davenport and Kirby, Only Humans Need Apply; Dean Gonsowski,
6. The admins, operators and other staff in these cyberspaces will be advanced AI, like cyber-robots. Humans will still be involved too, but will delegate where appropriate, which will be most of the time. This is one of my key predictions.
The development of Chatbots and their ability to imitate humans is advancing fast. This may someday soon lead to what I predicted here, which is far more intelligent that Chatbots. Here is the latest Wikipedia explanation of Chatbots:
A chatbot (also known as a talkbot, chatterbot, Bot, chatterbox, Artificial Conversational Entity) is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. Such programs are often designed to convincingly simulate how a human would behave as a conversational partner, thereby passing the Turing test. Chatterbots are typically used in dialog systems for various practical purposes including customer service or information acquisition. Some chatterbots use sophisticated natural language processing systems, but many simpler systems scan for keywords within the input, then pull a reply with the most matching keywords, or the most similar wording pattern, from a database.
This is a precursor to the development of AI admins. As far as I know what I envisioned here has not happened yet. The help desk usage we already see does not qualify. The AI is, however, advancing fast and we may see it soon in the more sophisticated usages I projected. To quote the Wikipedia article again, this development does seem inevitable,
Interface designers have come to appreciate that humans’ readiness to interpret computer output as genuinely conversational—even when it is actually based on rather simple pattern-matching—can be exploited for useful purposes. Most people prefer to engage with programs that are human-like, and this gives chatbot-style techniques a potentially useful role in interactive systems that need to elicit information from users, as long as that information is relatively straightforward and falls into predictable categories. Thus, for example, online help systems can usefully employ chatbot techniques to identify the area of help that users require, potentially providing a “friendlier” interface than a more formal search or menu system. This sort of usage holds the prospect of moving chatbot technology from Weizenbaum’s “shelf … reserved for curios” to that marked “genuinely useful computational methods”.
7. The presence of AIs will spread and become ubiquitous. They will be a key part of the IOT – Internet of Things. Even your refrigerator will have an AI, one that you program to fit your current dietary mood and supply orientation.
The IOT is rapidly advancing, but the security issues are holding it back (or should). The AI in your appliances should also have security guard features, then maybe security conscious people like me will be more likely to embrace a smart toaster. Folks like IBM see how the future of IOT is linked to AI, so this development seems secure. Hupfer, AI is the future of the IoT – IBM Internet of Things blog (12/15/16). In this IBM blog Susanne Hupfer, Ph.D., a Senior Consultant and a lead analyst for the IBM Cognitive Advantage Study, made her own predictions that are similar to mine:
It’s not too hard to imagine a future in which humans, IoT devices, and AI-powered robots and objects will exist harmoniously as a kind of collective “digital brain” that anticipates human needs and provides predictions, recommendations, and solutions. In the near-term future, we humans are likely to allow the digital brain to enhance our own decision making. In the more distant future, we may even trust the digital brain to take certain actions upon our behalf.
8. The knowledge products and services will come in a number of different forms, many of which do not exist in the present time, but will be made possible by other new inventions, especially in the area of communications, medical implants, brain-mind research, wearables, and multidimensional video games and conferences.
We are already seeing a number of innovative approaches to knowledge products and services in the virtual reality field, as discussed above.
9. All subject areas will be covered, somewhat like Wikipedia, but with super-intelligent cyber robots to test, validate and edit each area. The AI robots will serve most of the administrator and other cyber-staffing functions, but not all.
This kind of super-librarian AI still seems decades away, but the events of the last year, dominated as they were by fake-news and alternate-facts may supercharge research in this area. Facebook says they are working on this, as well they should, since many are now angry at what they consider Facebook’s naive approach to political power and allowing their product to be manipulated. See eg. Manjoo, Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug? (NYT, 4/25/17) (“Mark Zuckerberg now acknowledges the dangerous side of the social revolution he helped start. But is the most powerful tool for connection in human history capable of adapting to the world it created?”)
10. The AI admins will monitor, analyze, and screen out alleged SMEs who do not meet certain quality standards. The AI admins will thus serve as a truth screen and quality assurance. An SME’s continued participation in an AI certified site will be like a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
The so-called experts that appear on many televisions networks and social medias of all sorts are now operating with no quality controls. Editors used to control lies, but often the goal is not truth at all, it is power or money. Many experts are out there in all fields, not just journalism, that suffer from these same ethical challenges. We all need protection from experts who should not be trusted. Consider for instance the so-called Swedish National Security Advisor who appeared on national televisions that the government of Sweden said they had never even heard of.
Many people now realize the urgency of this situation and are accelerating their efforts. For more background on this, see, for instance, these articles: Brown, IBM Obtains Patent for AI Device that Claims to “Fact Check” Statements made during Live Calls (Washington Standard, 3/17/17); AI can join the fight back against the post-truth world, New Scientist (9/7/16); Ghulati, Introducing Factmata — Artificial intelligence for automated fact-checking (12/6/16); The post-truth world: Yes, I’d lie to you, (The Economist, 9/10/16); Peer Review Has Its Shortcomings, But AI Is a Risky Fix, (Wired, 1/30/17).
This tenth prediction, like the last, is of greater importance than I realized in 2015 when I made these predictions. Again, I hope that AI will guide us out of the current mess. We are not only suffering from too much information, but also misinformation and propaganda.
11. The AI admins will also monitor and police the SME services and opinions for fraud and other unacceptable use, and for general cybersecurity. The friendly management AIs will even be involved in system design, billing, collection, and dispute resolution.
It is not too hard to imagine that the new live, AI fact-checker device that IBM has just Patented might come with an automated mute function or interrupt warning pop-up. There are certainly free-speech considerations, but the First Amendment is not intended to protect intentional lies or fraud, any more than a person shouting fire in a theater. The application of AI to billing is already well underway in medical and should spread to many other industries soon, including law. Bayer, Unravelling The Mysteries Of Medical Billing With Artificial Intelligence (Health IT Outcomes, 10/12/16); Buhr, Eligible founder Katelyn Gleason’s plan to upend the billion dollar medical billing industry (Tech Crunch, 3/25/17); Coe, Legal Tech Download: Axiom Expansion And Robot Billing (Law 360, 12/21/16).
12. Environments hosted by such friendly, fair, patient, sometimes funny, polite (per your specified level, which may include insult mode), high IQ intelligence, both human and robot, will be generally considered to be reliable, bona fide, effective, safe, fun, enriching, and beautiful. They will provide a comforting alternative to information overload environments filled with conflicting information, including its lowest form, data. These alternative knowledge nests will become a refuge of music in a sea of noise. Some will become next generation Disney World vacation paradises.
This twelfth prediction is built on all of the rest. It will necessarily be one of the last to come true.
The development of VR and education has taken off faster than predicted. I thought it would take five years, until 2020, but it looks to me like it is already here. Certainly it will get better, but I consider this first prediction, the one I called the most important, to have already come true. But that is just one of twelve and not enough to prove the Information → Knowledge theory. And certainly not enough on its own to pull us out of a dangerous time of mere data into one of Knowledge.
Prediction number three (“The new SME environment will include products and services, with both free and billed aspects.”) is also close to coming true, but I am not ready to call it yet. Still, at this point, it is looking like a sure thing. Again, this development by itself is not powerful. It advances real knowledge, instead of information, but not that far.
Progress was made this past year in all of the other ten predictions. I would I feel pretty good about the theory so far being proven true, but for the fact that the downside of the warnings are also coming true. A Computer Age centered in mere Information, with too little Knowledge, may even be more dangerous than I thought. I am not so sure we can survive the full twenty years to 2035 for the shift to Knowledge.
Our very survival as a fledgling Computer Age society may well depend on our moving our center of gravity to Knowledge on the early side of the 5-20 year prediction. At five years that would be 2020, which is the next presidential election. Can we survive four more years after that, to 2024, before citizens place their votes based on actual knowledge of the issues? I am unsure. I just hope that Thomas Friedman’s optimistic observations of extremely fast acceleration are correct. If so, maybe we will make it through these dangerous times. Maybe we will make it from misinformation to knowledge in ten years, not twenty.
Please, fellow knowledge workers, intensify and accelerate your efforts. We need everyone to join in. That is the only way to avoid the many possible technology dystopias we now face. Our freedom depends on it. Our very lives depend on it, and so to do all future generations.