The Digitizing of Everything

There are 31,463 digital images in my photo library including scans from my earlier work and old family images, and photos taken in digital form.

Currently there are 416 emails in my work inbox, and 256 in my 5 personal email accounts. I have thousands of emails filed from the past 30 months.

My 5,699 songs would take 16.3 days to play and can be accessed from several devices via the cloud.

I received no printed magazines, instead using iBooks and Zinio to manage my 25 annual subscriptions. We watch movies from iTunes and Netflix, event sessions on YouTubes, and video-conference with the family almost weekly now.

All these items can be stored, searched, manipulated, sent, and shared across digital channels.

You get the picture – the digitizing of our lives has had a material effect on the media, communications, and entertainment realms.

Most digitization has been of existing data, or data we would have recorded in another form one way or another. Media, sales records, stock transactions, inventory, medical records, weather patterns all proceeded digitization and would have marched on with or without the computer age. Just look to the constant stream of new data being added.

These are the “low hanging fruit” of digitization. They have assisting in organizing our worlds, speeding the calculations, and showing patterns but how have they truly changed it?

In the book AFTER THOUGHT The Computer Challenge to Human Intelligence James Bailey proposes a completely new impact on humanity due to the computers ability to “think” differently than we do. [Note: this is a 15-year-old book and not an easy ready, but one whose concepts has stayed with me for years.]

One example he uses to illustrate the impact of the speed of computing is weather predictions. Given the same data, humans could calculate the predictions just as machines, but in hundreds of “man-hours”. By then, the prediction would be useless.

This is where the next chapter of digitization is taking us – to digitizing things that we would not think of as digital – like currency, our lives via life logging, and 3 dimensional items not for display on 2D or 3D monitors but for reproduction in 3 dimensions.

Take a minute to look around your world, what do you think can’t be digitized? Chances are you are wrong.

The digitizing of everything is one of the most impacting elements of the quantum change known as computing. It has just started to truly run its course and will, over the next 50 years, bring truer if not greater change than it has in the last 50.


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