Jan 2, 2017 4:15:47 PM by Tina Miletich

HEEDing the Call for the Happy Marriage of Digital/Human Worlds

Digital Transformation, Digital Strategy, Human Computer Interaction

From: Tina Miletich, Principal, HEED© Group


If you’re a science fiction buff you knew the day would come when the line between digital and human intelligence—existence, really—was so thin as to be virtually non-existent. And, as an SF devotee, you also know that there are two possible views of the impact of this disappearing barrier.

One school of thought (think Asimov’s I, Robot) is that the trend will lead to a grab-bag of disasters, eventually leading to a society ruled by non-human intelligence. The other view is that this intimate relationship between human and digital worlds is the path to human enhancement. By using the tremendous—and ever-increasing—digital resources at our fingertips to improve human life, we are making artificial intelligence an extension of human intelligence, not a separate, evil entity bent on our destruction.

My feet are planted firmly in the second, positive view. My years working in digital/interactive media have made me a human/technology optimist. I’ve seen the myriad ways digital technology has improved our lives, from providing real-time access to news and information, to opening whole new worlds of entertainment, to helping product designers build and market exactly the products their customers need. And I believe we have yet to scratch the surface of the potential of the digital/human intelligence connection.

In fact, I believe that the relationship between humans and digital is true symbiosis. (Merriam Webster’s definition for symbiosis is: “The mutually beneficial living together in more or less intimate association or close union of two dissimilar organisms.”) As humans have evolved and sought to solve increasingly complex problems facing humankind, digital evolution has kept pace. For example, medical researchers work hand-in-hand with their digital partners to solve intricate medical puzzles and help people struggling with medical issues lead full lives. The human/digital partnership truly helps human be more human. As time goes on, I believe human and digital will evolve together, each driving the other into new territory. By understanding and participating in this process, we can ensure that humankind consistently gains from this relationship.

That’s why I have established HEED© (Human Experience and Engagement via Digital), a consultancy dedicated to helping clients understand and use this digital/human symbiosis to enhance current product offerings and create products perfectly suited to the new all-digital world. We are showing clients how to take the leap and thrive in the new geography.

In Case You Had Any Doubts

The evidence of the disappearing human/digital divide is all around us. In fact, the world is virtually enmeshed in the Internet. (The term Worldwide Web seems more appropriate than ever.) According to recent research from Cisco Systems, “More things are connecting to the Internet than people — over 12.5 billion devices in 2010 alone. Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) predicts some 25 billion devices will be connected by 2015, and 50 billion by 2020.” The report goes on note just a few examples of how this Internet of Things is expanding exponentially:

  • A Dutch company, Sparked, is producing wireless sensors to be used on cattle. The sensors detect signs of illness or pregnancy in the cattle and send a message to a farmer’s device.
  • Medical device companies are using wireless sensors to monitor cardiac patients and send signs of abnormalities to caregivers.
  • In smart homes and businesses everywhere, devices are conducting ongoing conversations with one another. Let’s say that, in a fully wired smart home, the homeowner gets an email on his smartphone that his first morning meeting has been pushed back 45 minutes, and a traffic report telling him there’s a 20-minute delay due to an accident. The phone resets his alarm for the right time, while sending messages to his coffeemaker and car to start at precisely the right moments.

And, can fully autonomous devices be far away when you consider developments like Google's newest, and soon-to-be-built fleet of self-driving cars, which will be custom-built prototypes with no steering wheels or control pedals. Test vehicles are equipped with rooftop LIDAR systems, with additional sensors located where conventional cars have side-view mirrors. But even more impressively, the vehicles will be programmed to make “decisions” about how to best safeguard their passengers.

Bottom line: Digital devices have begun to reason in a very human way. The next step in evolution for digital is development of an even more human trait: self-awareness. Clearly, development of this trait will dictate a more equal and deepening relationship between the two parties. More than ever, it is clear that our fates are firmly welded together.


The Only Remaining Question for Businesses


The question is no longer whether businesses should become citizens in the new hybrid world, but when they take the leap. And the answer to that is A.S.A.P. No matter what business you’re in, you can be sure your competitors are seeking the best routes into the new territory. With the proper guidance, any businessperson can learn how to make digital intelligence an ally in creating the perfect products and services for the human/digital world.

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