Digital Legacies: Perfection

Julius Wiedemann examines humankind’s unyielding pursuit of perfection, its effects on technological evolution, and potential to reshape the world through the lens of sustainability.

by Julius WiedemannPublished on : Jul 06, 2021

The Brazilian entrepreneur, Victor Zabrokis, once told me: perfection is impossible, excellence is the way. Few expressions could reflect better the dynamics of the internet era. The effort made by engineers, designers, lawyers, architects, marketeers, information scientists, and so many others, constitute every day a little step forward towards improving just a little bit of something. This group of professionals, observing and tracking what we do every day, and staying updated on the newest technologies released, has to find a balance between technological capabilities and our behavioural and cognitive adaptability to propose something different. Simply proposing to integrate or implement a new possibility is not enough to make it successful, even if the advantages are overwhelming.

Between 1954 and 1997, we progressed from the first transistor to the IBM Deep Blue defeating Grandmaster Garry Kasparov | Digital Legacies: Perfection | STIRworld
Between 1954 and 1997, we progressed from the first transistor to the IBM Deep Blue defeating Grandmaster Garry Kasparov Image: Courtesy of Julius Wiedemann

More often than not, progress is made slowly. We nurture the culture of anxiety for rapid change, because history shows that hundred years are nothing in the overall scheme, but for a human being that means over five generations. Technological uptake is also complicated to understand in terms of time. We went from the first transistor in 1954 to the IBM Deep Blue winning against Garry Kasparov in 1997. And it sounds like yesterday. We have barely started to use machine learning and artificial intelligence, with their first complex tentative formulas originated from Alan Turing in the post Second World War. Milestones and big leaps forward happen occasionally, but the normal cycle between update in upgrades is what governs most of our days.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are still in their early infancy, despite considerable leaps made in recent years | Digital Legacies: Perfection | STIRworld
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are still in their early infancy, despite considerable leaps made in recent years Image: Courtesy of Julius Wiedemann

Our reference for ultimate perfection will always be, or at least they will be for a long time, the performance of our brains, composed by around 86 billion neurons, capable of processing countless and diverse activities. The anxiety in some intellectual circles as well as in scientific research groups is that for the first time in history, we might be able to accomplish a type of intelligence that is more than perfect, surpassing human capability of processing data and even taking decisions. We have already outsourced a lot of the decision-making process to algorithms, from Google to Tinder, from Instagram to Facebook, from Twitter to Netflix. All of them are making suggestions based on our behavioural patterns that tell us more than we know about ourselves.

For the first time in history, we might be able to create a form of intelligence that surpasses our own | Digital Legacies: Perfection | STIRworld
For the first time in history, we might be able to create a form of intelligence that surpasses our own Image: Courtesy of Julius Wiedemann

In an article at the AWS (Amazon Web Services) titled “Amazon Forecast now supports generating predictions for 5X more items using 3X more historic data points” the company advertises that “Today, we are raising the limit on the number of unique items that you can forecast from 1 million to 5 million for forecasting frequencies of daily, weekly, monthly and yearly.” This consequent steady growth in data analysis is shifting the paradigms of excellency beneath our feet. Digital tools do not need to be perfect; they only need to have learning capability.

Excellence is the new word for development. Sustainability is, maybe, the best contemporary example for something that we have to get used to in terms of improvements. Little by little. The environment doesn’t carry milestones, doesn’t change overnight, and doesn’t set off the alarm for an Armageddon. To revert the results from nasty carbon dioxide emissions, the production of plastics, the waste of food, the nontreatment of waters, the pollution of the seas, and other indicators, we will need to use the best technological apparatus to monitor and improve things every day.

Osklen, a clothing brand has launched the slogan ASAP - which stands for ‘As Sustainable as Possible, As Soon As Possible,’ showcasing how honest and consistent companies today must be in their efforts | Digital Legacies: Perfection | STIRworld
Osklen, a clothing brand has launched the slogan ASAP - which stands for ‘As Sustainable as Possible, As Soon As Possible,’ showcasing how honest and consistent companies today must be in their efforts Image: Courtesy of Julius Wiedemann

The clothing brand Osklen, founded by Oskar Metsavaht, recently launched the slogan ASAP, meaning “As Sustainable As Possible, As Soon As Possible”. It translates how dead-honest companies and brands should act these days. The world of selling magic or quick transformations is long gone. Perfection doesn’t exist. We have to rely on the everyday efforts to make long-lasting changes that people can digest and catch up with. The graphical interface was improved little by little, and even though it is now ubiquitous, it keeps improving and transforming itself. Let’s look at our surroundings, add the digital tools we have at our disposal, and start increasing our performance towards the goals that will make the next generation proud of what we changed. Piece by piece.

Read more from the series Digital Legacies where our columnist Julius Wiedemann investigates the many aspects of digital life.

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