I was recently listening to one of Seth Godin’s podcasts, where he picked at the fact that writing has helped humanity to do a couple of things: go asynchronous (not real-time), and be able to improve on things that are written down. The last one is a fundamental concept of most quality systems, including TQM and ISO 9000. Without documenting -especially in very large and complex systems-, not only would be hard to compare progress against a baseline, but it may be impossible to tell if the process is just not being followed. Without these, it is very hard to make true, positive progress.
With the Internet, documents moved to email and the cloud, and the feedback review cycle got ever faster. Making positive progress at an organization is now measured in months, sometimes weeks; instead of years.
Now we have instant messaging. A linear progression would suggest that the cycle just accelerates an order of magnitude, but instead, we get cat memes. I am more of a dog person, but I don’t hate cats, but still; with all this power, why can’t we figure out how to use it for good? I know I am exaggerating a little here, not everything is doom and gloom, but I yet get to see an order of magnitude in the benefit of our faster systems. Especially if we want lasting change. Slack has attempted to do something in these lines, capturing the essence of work interactions, after all, not sure if it’s a “backcronym”, but allegedly their name stands for “searchable log of all communications and knowledge”.
One reason for this lack of stellar progress may be that the information in these platforms is being generated at a speed, and at volumes that are just way too difficult to handle for someone reading them. Think about it, how many times have you had the urge to check back on a thread to read it all, only to quickly realize that it’s a futile effort, that you will never truly “catch up”?
So perhaps, our IM communications will have to be monitored by an AI capable of finding some meaning out of those cat memes, stickers and The Rock GIFs.
Privacy, obviously, can be an issue, but I think there is an opportunity to start with more personal-focused AIs, that assist every individual in better understanding their own communications and behavior. I would be curious to know what I spend the most time on, what are my most used words, and what seem to be open issues.
Socrates said it well: “the unexamined life is not worth living”.