Is Context Declining?

Day 236 Week 34 Q3 Friday, August 25, 2023

I’m going to apologize in advance for sounding like an old fart. However, I have noticed that there are many parts of our lives where context has declined to increase profitability. Let’s start with a really simple one. There used to be such a thing as an album, a record or an LP. Of course, they still exist, and some even claim that they are experiencing a resurgence and perhaps they are.  Growing up in the ‘60s and the ‘70s,  Music was a central part of life.  None of my friends went to church or temple. We were all anti-authority hippies. It turns out many of us did end up having a lot of impact, and became scientists and artists, and took her to satisfaction with how Society was to change it. But we have lost something really important: liner notes and album cover art.  This told us a great deal about the lives and situations of our musical heroes. And by the way, most of our heroes were musical.  They were certainly not generals, politicians, CEOs, ministers, or any other authoritarian, Square, but efficient people.

What this packaging of music gave us was context. This made sense if a song was sad, and we understood that the artist was having a breakup or an illness. If we were celebratory, we wanted to know why. And to go along with this information, when we listened to the radio there were disk jockeys. These people played the records and told us a lot of this information, which was much more fun than reading it because there would be millions of people worldwide, listening to the same presenters of this information. We all felt like we were part of a family because we were.  We were sharing context.

We live in a very complex world, and one of the most powerful ways to manage that complexity is by managing context. Even a slide rule had context. These were the mechanical devices that preceded the calculator, which demanded of those of us who use them the ability to understand scale. We needed to know the difference between 1000, 1 million, 1 billion and trillion. We had to internalize the exponent or multiplier because we were solving problems with only a few significant digits.

For another example, let’s talk about the so-called paperless office, which I have been trying to create in my life for 50 years since that was one of the promises made when we got computers.  Or at least we all thought we needed to have a computer to get rid of the paper. It has taken several decades, and we now have eliminated a lot of paper, but unfortunately, we have also eliminated a lot of context along with the paper. It is much more satisfying to enter something into an analog notebook where we can see what came before. And digital files, we do not have the same sense of continuity. Nor the same satisfaction for entering information.

For what we have lost in the process is context. There is a reason why creative people are still carrying around notebooks along with all of our digital systems. I personally have multiple laptops, multiple tablets, carry two phones, and also have multiple desktop machines. But none of them have been able to replace the usefulness of the simple notebook, not just because it does not need batteries, and not just because it does not need to be online, but because it provides context in a way that digital files do not even though they have plenty of meta-data. Because you see digital systems do not know what context is. Which means they are at a disadvantage in managing complexity. And artificial intelligence has the same problem. It cannot tell if something is true or false. It has no judgment. It has no context. It does not have the context of experience. And people are joining the ranks of artificial intelligence, shedding their context, and their ability to manage complexity, and they were ability to understand scale and scope of issues and problems. Which makes it a lot more difficult for them to actually solve them. Because they can’t even see them.

So yes, context is declining and even spell checkers. Try to use different words because it’s not part of the world of the people who created the spellchecker’s.