About our sight and our minds

I love paradoxes and duality, and, more often than I’d like to admit, I catch myself thinking my way out of one. Have you ever done it? Sit with a thought that is just too puzzling to let go? To try and wrap your mind across an idea only to see it is like to try and wrap a single link of a chain? Well I do it often and the most recent one? The problem with filter bubbles and technology that connects people. Let me elaborate:

I’m a very optimistic person about the future in pretty much every aspect I can think of. This trait is even more constant when the subject is technology. I believe technology is going to help us be more empathetic, more capable and more communicative (and I don’t mean in a extrovert way, but in the deeper sense of the word, more open and more trusting). And technology does it in a way that is as elegant as it is ingenious: it add more and more people to the mix.

Think about it, the internet gives anyone a voice, and, as Stuart Kauffman would say:

“any sufficiently complex mixture of elements will make many if not every possible reaction ‘auto-catalyzed’ by some other element in the mixture.”

So, if the mixture is the world, the more people we put in the conversation, the more we can evolve it! We can reach discussions that would never happen when the power to communicate and be heard depends on things like money or place of birth. Also as Jason Silva puts it:

“it has been said that empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight, then perhaps is by extending our gaze[…]that we can breach divisions and bring the worlds together.”

And by extending our gaze with tools like virtual reality or ubiquitous internet, we can become more empathetic towards people we didn’t even know existed.

But that is alright, the problem comes when you consider the other aspect of extending our gaze. Even if we see the whole world, we don’t know how to filter or process that much information. But technology helps us with that again! we know how to filter or curate content based on user preferences, if you know how a person looks at a news feed or chooses what to read you can filter out information that she wouldn’t like and give her only enough that she can read, understand, empathise and act upon.

Filters and curated content seem to be everywhere now, as the world chosen solution for the problems of extending our gaze. But that has generated a problem by itself, just look for a concept called the “filter bubble” or check this amazing TED talk to see it simply explained.

So now you see the paradox, one of the ways technology makes us better is by showing us the world and empowering us with information enough that we can act upon the aspects we think should be different. But that comes with a cost, and the way we are solving this is actually building more walls than bridges.

And how do we escape that? Well I don’t know (hence the paradox) but my optimistic side does see possibilities. It might be a new technology that curates content differently, it might be a new AI that understands that people sometimes want to open their minds instead of seeing just the same subject, it might be that we evolve our brains to understand more information and therefore eliminating the need to curate content at all. It might be a ton of other things, but I think that in order to find the answers we must do what Einstein suggested and open our minds even more, stop using all of our imagination to make people click on more adds and use it to a more relevant, challenging and difficult problem. Cause after all:

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”