Over the course of the past 50 years, we have gone from a world where we were inside computers to one where computers are inside us.
The very early computers required you to walk into the belly of the architecture to operate them. Now, you can order anything you want by tapping twice at a device plugged into your ear.
The distance between devices and humans has approached zero.
Computers went from being the size of a whole building to something we could put on a desk. They went from the desk to something we could hold on our laps. They went from something we held occasionally to something that is on our person at all times. All this happened in just a few decades.
We can quickly detach ourselves from computers by putting our phone down, taking off our smart-watch or removing our AirPods. However, this is only a state that we can temporarily maintain today.
The default has flipped.
In the past, our default state was unplugged and unconnected. We had to exert energy to plug-in and get online. It was an active decision that we had to make and a step-by-step process we followed.
Press I/O button on our desktop computer → Double click on America Online → Listen to the suffocating orchestra of a dial-up connection → “Browse” the internet.
Now, our default state is one where we are always plugged in and online. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep we are part of a stream of 1s and 0s that is connected to a system much larger than us. Even in our sleep, the digital versions of ourselves are sending and receiving messages, measuring our sleep patterns, and preparing us for our day tomorrow.
The machines are not only physically with us and on us at all times but their algorithmic tentacles have enveloped around the crevices of our most obvious needs.
Indeed we are raising these algorithms in our image. We first taught them to understand our writing. And then we taught them to understand our speech. Voice-enabled virtual assistants such as Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri have created a world where we can finally converse with machines and execute simple tasks. They will only get better at understanding us and our needs.
Additionally, we can quickly a similar transformation occurring for not just speech recognition but one that enhances our primitively designed sense of vision. We will integrate computers into our field of view. We have already attempted these feats in the past (Google Glasses / Snapchat Spectacles). The needs and use cases are not quite there yet. But, they will get there in due time.
The ability to seamlessly converse with our personal army of algorithms and upgrade our visual cortex for augmented vision will turn us all into superheroes. Though we may not be able to fly (yet) like Iron Man, we will be able to get that powerful control panel in the helmet.
But upgrading the hardware is only one part of this transformation. We also need to upgrade our software. The machines will slowly reprogram our frame of mind. They have the potential to help us be better human beings. To tame the reptilian brain that is constantly seeking short term rewards.
Many people want to better themselves. They want to make good decisions that will improve their lives. But good decisions require work, effort, and repetitive will power. Everyone wants to be healthy but very few people have the will power to go to the gym every day. Everyone wants financial success but very few people want to save and invest in themselves in ways that will enable that.
With a device inside us that is learning and understanding us in ways nobody ever could, our constant companion will help us optimize for the better long-term decisions. Eventually, they will be able to soothe us if we are frustrated, motivate us when feeling down, and incentivize us towards better outcomes.
They will be our therapist, our personal trainer, our financial advisor, and much much more.
And it’s not far off. Look around at the software applications that we are using today. Your health app. Your meditation app. Your personal finance app. Your contacts app. They are at arm's length but do not get used consistently enough to benefit the vast majority of people. Once these apps are seamlessly embedded into our minds, that's when we can really change ourselves for the better, at scale.