Inspiration means inhaling the spirit of creativity; expiration ultimately is surrendering that spirit. But what can we call computer-sourced creativity? I call it espiration (e for “out of,” as in E Pluribus Unum). I suppose you could translate espiration — badly — as “out of breath.” We’re not out of breath, yet, but the technological changes begun by the Industrial Revolution are moving along at a breathless pace.
I see four great trends in technological development. They increase over time in complexity.
Automation — substitutes machinery for labor. Automation has been changing human activity for about 250 years now, starting with the Industrial Revolution and its spinning jennies, looms, and knitting machines. Anything that can be automated, will be automated.
Virtualization — substitutes algorithm for agency. Say farewell to dealing with other humans. On-line stores. On-line travel. On-line insurance. Anything rule-based that can be vended without the intercession of humans will be vended without the intercession of humans. But that’s just the simplistic start. Autonomous cars and trucks are examples of virtual drivers. Virtual factories will speed construction planning and production-line planning. Virtual worlds will allow many potential scenarios to play out before anyone commits to a strategy. You will be able to see and sense the very pulsation of the market. Will it make you a more successful trader? We’ll see.
Augmentation — provides computer-mediated abilities; humans made better by devices. Night-vision goggles and Auto-Tune are two early examples of augmentation. Night-vision goggles help you see in the dark, and Auto-Tune helps you sing on key (two abilities that many humans lack). The da Vinci Surgical System allows minimally invasive surgery at a scale and precision that surgery by even the best hand cannot equal. Prosthetics, exoskeletons, artificial hearts, and other artificial organs provide replacement for, and eventually will enhance, human abilities.
Espiration — offers computer-sourced abilities. Thought and creation outside of and independent of the human mind. I suspect that animation and music will be the first examples of machine creation, but they won’t be the last.
Computers are not by nature independently creative. They require programming by humans. To my knowledge (always faulty) computers have not yet created other computers or computer programs without the oversight of human beings. But eventually, they will. Eventually, they will create real songs with lyrics that you want to listen to, and books of stories that describe the interior thoughts and motivations of humans.
But that speculation is for another post.