Throughout human history, the veneration of knowledgeable individuals, those encyclopedic repositories of information, has been the norm. We have long held the belief that the possession of vast knowledge and the ability to recall it effortlessly are the hallmarks of intellect and wisdom. ‘Being brainy’ has been awesome and is normally identified by knowing tons of things. Lawyers refer to ‘my learned friend’, explicitly honouring their colleagues with recognition of the scale of their bank of knowledge.
However, I believe we now stand at a pivotal moment in our civilization, where the emphasis is shifting from the mere accumulation of knowledge to the art of gathering, processing, and making informed decisions from information in real-time. Artificial Intelligence and its most recent advances into daily culture, drives an irreversible change. It’s as exciting and liberating as the dawn of the lightbulb to brighten our lives.
This paradigm shift, which I abbreviate as 'moving from hard-disking to streaming,' heralds the dawn of a new age of wisdom.
The Reign of Knowledge
For as long has been recorded, societies have celebrated and esteemed scholars, the prodigious minds who hoarded facts, figures, and theories in the vast expanse of their brains. These erudite individuals, amazing keepers of knowledge, were considered the elite, the guiding lights who shaped the path of progress. From ancient sages to Renaissance polymaths, the reverence bestowed upon them was unparalleled. Their intellectual prowess commanded respect and admiration, and rightly so.
Professors were the supercomputers of their age. They had the biggest hard disks.
The Rise of a New Age
As we venture further into the digital age, and especially now the era of AI, we find ourselves standing at the precipice of a profound transformation. The exponential growth of technology, and the unfathomable wealth of information available at our fingertips, have paved the way for a new form of wisdom.
It no longer revolves around the acquisition and storage of knowledge within a single mind. Instead, it is anchored in the ability to navigate the ever-flowing stream of information.
Those who will now succeed will understand how to ride the growing tsunami of immediately available multiple-perspectives, making sense of them, and leveraging the power of immediacy and multiplicity to make informed decisions.
Some of us will be overwhelmed. Others – and they will be our new leaders - will be empowered by their ability to parse, weight and filter information, calming a tidal wave of options into a leveraged and orderly river of decisions.
The ‘New Wise’ will be like GPUs (Graphics Processing Units, which are used to process vast amounts of data and perform complex mathematical computations required by modern AI and machine learning algorithms) with a shimmering ability to handle an abundance of inputs whilst delivering a simple and correct output.
Wisdom in the Information Age
In this new era of permanent connectivity and constant data influx, wisdom manifests itself as the capacity to sift through an abundance of information, discerning relevance from noise, and critically analyzing its implications.
It requires a circumspect and weighted approach, considering diverse perspectives, and evaluating the context in which information is presented. The wise, here, are not mugged by single-point perspectives and ‘bias’ (political, social, financial, gender, deliberate and accidental – all sorts) largely avoiding being hostage to any of the old-world allegiances that were necessary when information flow was rationed and channelled, in a way which is now impossible to impose.
It may not seem so, but when you ask an 18-year-old which movie would be best to watch, they immediately and adroitly sift through multiple streams of availability, pricing, reviews and cultural impact, to arrive at a swift recommendation. They’re parsing and concluding in real time.
Word of Mouth and singular points of review don’t seem at all reliable to them. Their personally curated ability to gather, process and decide within multiple streams of information supersedes the traditional manual process, making decision-making swifter and more circumspect.
The presence of algorithms from Spotify, Netflix, Snapchat, TikTok and others, is daily supplanting traditional news and information channels with their singular editorial perspectives. Those things that have seemed trivial distractions, that have worried parents with concerns of making our children into ADHD, micro-attenders, have actually been tuning a new generation of information-hungry, sophisticated processing units.
Wisdom, in our new AI age, is about embracing complexity and uncertainty, acknowledging that true understanding lies not in the storage and recall of facts, but in the ability to contextualize and apply them effectively, in real-time.
Education for the New Age
As we navigate into this transformative shift, our education systems must adapt to nurture individuals who can thrive in the information-rich landscape. While knowledge retention remains vital, it should no longer be the sole focus.
It will still matter that people know – hard disk – certain truths, like boiling water burns your skin, people die, snakes can have venom, the sun rises in what we call the East, and so on - but curricula must now place greater emphasis on teaching students how to accumulate, process and decision-make with information from various sources.
Critical thinking, analytical skills, and the ability to discern credible information from misinformation should be at the core of our educational endeavours. We need society to have a generalised expertise in understanding of ‘signals’ and to be able to judge the truth from the interpolations arising from them.
Never has it been truer that ‘there are two sides to every story’ but the latest challenge is: there’s only one truth and it’s important to be able to see it.
The Emergence of Data-Powered Decision Makers
In the near future, we can anticipate a new wave of leaders and decision-makers, across society, in institutions and commerce, in public and in private life, who are empowered by their proficiency in processing and leveraging data. These individuals will possess a unique skill set that allows them to make sound judgments, drawing upon a wealth of information available in real-time. They will steer us towards success, relying not solely on traditional hierarchical structures but on the collective intelligence of their teams and the insights derived from data-driven analyses.
Like AI, they will benefit from reward-models, learning that particular decisions made from consideration of specific datasets, lead to positive or negative outcomes, so they constantly refine their wisdom and reliability. Wisdom, in this new world, will accelerate, be democratised, and lead to a great refinement in the conduct of our lives. Conflicts will be amicably settled, as evidence will show it to be the most production solution. Creativity will flourish, as it is shown that the greatest advances flow from unleashing the human mind from doubt and enabling it to conceive with freedom and abandon.
What’s most exciting is that our new leaders will be employing machines and their data, to release human genius in a way never before seen, to create, to invent, to imagine, in a care-free fashion. ‘The freedom of a tight brief’ is what we can look forward to – with much less casting around in the darkness, and far more certainty of positive outcomes in the light.
As we grow as a society, through this era of immense technological advancement, underpinned by AI, we find ourselves on the threshold of a new age of wisdom. The transition from hard-disking to streaming is a profound shift from the mere accumulation of knowledge to the ability to gather, process, and make well-informed decisions from information at any given moment. Our education systems must evolve to empower individuals to thrive in this new landscape. The rise of data-powered decision-makers heralds a future where leaders harness the potential of information and pave the way for progress, innovation, and a more enlightened society. Machines are freeing humans to be more, human.
July 4, 2023