Gestural and Generational: A Personal Story About the Operating Systems of Our Future
In short, these technological advances are phenomenal, and intend to induce all sorts of qualia, sensoral cognition, as well as support a host of anticipatory, participatory, sensemaking systems.
But in all of this, you have to wonder if we are simply brushing right past our genealogies.
I'm talking about losing grasp of the human element.
And in terms of what have now been deemed as mere legacy systems, we seem to be turning a cold shoulder to our own stories, sacrificing richness and lustful meaning and empathy for expediency, accessibility and satisfaction.
And so it goes. Yet, life is full of experience.
To put this all in perspective, I have a little story for you.
My father recently turned 80 on November 9th. I'm quite proud of what he's done, you know, as a human being. He's been through a lot -- wars, the Holocaust, a heart transplant and several marriages (perhaps inextricably linked ;) -- and recently he teetered on the precipice of losing his medical practice. His own fiscal cliff, if you will.
One of the main reasons? Technology. Perhaps not so ironic.
The hospital where he is on staff called him in one day, cryptically delivering a message to him and several of his peers that they'd better learn the new "system" or else...
... No personal training. No evaluative criteria. No adaptive methods for reciprocal learning or intelligence sharing, or even a means to provide soild feedback, save for a form that requires too much time for signatures and obsequious stamps of approval.
Faces dropped, looks of awe and wonder and confusion took over. "This is the end of our days" each man and woman in the group wondered.
And like the others standing next to him, how was it that a man who has dedicated his life to helping people, despite all odds and unsavory circumstances, was in a snap of a finger suddenly relegated to obscurity, stripped of the very thing that drives him to stay alive?
Well, there's a happy ending to this short tale.
My dad decided to take it on the chin... By raising it.
"This is nothing", he said. "If I can't figure this system out, if I can't teach IT something, then it isn't worth the time I'd be punching its keys."
And so he hopped on the console and began the challenge. Mind you, this is a man whose word processor sat on his desk for nearly 15 years.
For a good two months, he constantly muttered expletives about the hospital administration. Some of it was wickedly funny, so I decided to go visit him while he doing his rounds. I was curious. And besides, as a kid, I used to go with him to do his rounds on Sunday mornings... My parents were long divorced, and that was quality time for me, watching him in his element.
I also wanted to talk to him about some deeper life stuff, as I was leaving for Israel the very next day.
When I got to the hospital, this is what I saw.
Boy, did he school the system. He owned it. He even mentioned that he'd thought of an annotation system for patient-doctor charting. He was going to talk to the hospital CIO about developing a better training regimen for the senior doctors on staff.
Because, as he put it, they know more than everybody else about how to take care of patients, and how to make more tempered, thoughtful decisions. How to use the eyes and hands when handling tough, emotional situations.
After all, lots of people complain about poor bedside manner these days.
One of the admins wasn't having it. So my dad told him a tall tale about saving an entire troupe of soldiers in Korea by developing a system for keeping records and predicting outcomes to avoid mortality rates based on their personality types.
All that we can learn from the old school.
And imagine all the preconceived notions we've had about previous generations, the antiseptic ways of dealing with things... The resentment we've built up at times because we think we've got it all emotionally figured out. Because we're the empathic ones. Because we've got the thick skin. But at what cost?
Well, intelligence isn't owned, it's shared.
Our stories drive that intelligence, provided we have a chance to share them.
And our data are expressions of knowledge, understanding and goodwill. When we allow them to be.
The operating systems of the future?
Lessons from the past, recontexualized as better stories, and better actions, for the future.
At least that's what I've learned.