A New Path of Discovery

There are moments on a journey when a door is opened and a new garden of potential discovery is revealed. A place to wander, a place to be surprised, a place to eventually find new meaning – a rich meaning waiting to emerge.

So it is now.

It started with a recent conversation with Ward. I was curious about a short post he put in Riot about being awakened in the middle of the night to write something that was of import. And then, satisfied, to go back to sleep.

He only vaguely reference what the topic was – enough to intrigue. But he did not reveal enough to know what were the thoughts behind his comment.

So, in our weekly chat, I asked him. He then shared with me Are We a Model or a Document?, reading it slowly to me, with occasional commentary.

Ward is a slow reader and writing for him does not come easily. But I have learned that in that process, each word is well considered. Others have spoken of the elegance of his code, I have found that similar sparse elegance in his prose. Sometimes you must work to understand it.

As he shared this page, he talked about loops. Two in particular, the read-eval-print loop and the input-process-output loop, telling me how the former, referred to as REPL, was fundamentally different from the deterministic mindset used by the latter.

REPL was all about discovery – discovery about the computer's behavior – its intelligence. As our intelligence explored the computer's intelligence, an important understanding might emerge.

Ward's curiosity was now leading him into new explorations of complex systems through three-dimensional visualization of models utilizing augmented reality tools that are integrated with the meaning-making biotope of the wiki.

REPL: that set me on an exploration that led me back to Lisp and the dawn of the modern computing age – a time of audacious aspiration.

At that time, back in the 1940s and 50s, dreams were already going beyond seeing the computer as a sophisticated tool for calculation. Might computers someday be capable of intelligence?

We are now surrounded by artificial intelligence (AI) as we are beginning to experience its widespread application in our lives. For many, this application raises fears as jobs will be lost, from truck drivers to lawyers.

The computer as an 'other' that threatens our wellbeing.

But that is not how the early pioneers such as Ashby, Licklider and Englebart thought of this potential. In fact, they saw the relationship as symbiotic – more aptly called 'intelligence amplification (IA)' as humans creatively interacted with the machine.

As one who has mild dyslexia, I find great pleasure in the power of a simple inversion of letters.

For the path I now see us going down is one guided by the light cast by those early visionaries. One that promises potential discoveries as we become empowered to explore complex systems with curiosity, a curiosity that will lead to the emergence of new understanding, new meaning, and new potential.