the black box theory

The world made complex by technology will become simple again.

A core tenant of speculative fiction is technology’s eventual hiddenness behind a layer of reality. Its purpose: to reduce the cognitive load of knowledge workers and engineers, while bringing focus to work and life.

Like Ford crafting the model-T line, we’re beginning to realize civilization’s most valuable commodity. Cal Newport in his book, A World Without Email, writes that, “in Ford’s world, the workers were dispensable (supremely valuing output), while in the knowledge world, our brains are the source of all value.”

The Information Age of torrential inundation has to transform into an Age of Understanding. Understanding simplifies the data flood and leads to wisdom. To get there, we need to clear cluttered desktops.

Think about Clarke’s third law: “any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.” The way we send emails today follows a process incomprehensible for a person plucked out of the 60’s who ran information through complicated tube systems to receive physical mail.

Black box simplification” is inevitable.

We already see it in small ways. You have no idea how the black box (literal and figurative) you’re reading this on functions, but you’re still competent to access information. And while it still has a complex interface that confounds some who were not born into an iSociety, its base functions become simpler and more efficient each year.

This learning curve leads to another pillar the field of ethical technology hoists- accessibility for those on the periphery. All this complexity and overload only serves a purpose if we perpetuate it on an equitable plane.

The Center for Humane Technology established baseline conditions for humane technology to enter society:

(Humane technology) narrows the gap between the powerful and the marginalized instead of increasing that gap.

We will simplify to this state.

One revealing point economists always reference post-crisis refers to “civilization immunity”. After a societal state of emergency (e.g. wars, famines, pandemics…), a civilization’s immune system is triggered, so that something similar cannot happen again. This can often have unintended and far-reaching consequences for good and bad.

It’s not a leap to say a year and half with the screens of our technology more prominent and under circumspection than ever will lead to societal transformations alongside COVID-19-induced evolution…

Author: Ben Fridge

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