The Vital Edge is an exploration of a new, synthetic intelligence that is part-human and part-machine. Those of us alive today will witness this birth, many of us without fully grasping its cosmic significance. For not since the origins of multicellular life has this planet witnessed such fantastic burst in the growth of intelligence.
The Machine-Human Interface
This website is dedicated to studying various interfaces between human and machine intelligence. In some cases, these interfaces take the form of specific technologies, such as the platforms that Google, Facebook, and Amazon use to transform human behavior into data for machine learning. In other cases, I use the term “interface” in more conceptual terms to refer to the relative comparative advantages of humans and machines. In this view, machines specialize in that which can be automated while humans focus on supplying volition and meaning. The resulting partnership represents a synthesis of these two very different forms of intelligence into a new, synthetic intelligence.
Automation and Intelligence
Machine intelligence is the result of the virtuous cycle that exists between automation and artificial intelligence. On one end of the feedback loop, machine learning fuels a new generation of software and robotic automation. On the other, a new generation of algorithms become smarter and smarter thanks to increasingly automated forms of machine learning.
Automated Service Economy
The Vital Edge focuses largely on the way that this machine intelligence is automating the service economy. It’s true that automation has already transformed much of our agriculture and manufacturing sectors and that the 80 percent of GDP and employment in services means that this is where automation is set to have its greatest impact. But the automation of the service economy is even more important because it will define the future of the human-machine interface. As service businesses automate, end users engage less and less with employees and more and more with automated systems that enable them to serve themselves.
Automated self-service is what automation looks like when it hits the service economy. Internal corporate information technology may touch tens and even hundreds of thousands of employees, but these automated self-service platforms are designed for Internet scale, which means millions and in some cases billions, of end users. The sheer magnitude of human engagement through these systems is such that they are becoming humanity’s primary point of contact with machines. They are, in short, the interface for connecting humans and machines into a new synthetic intelligence.
Exploring the nature of this new synthetic intelligence is the first job of this website; the second is investigating its implications.