The combination of human beings and machines is the engine driving the digital revolution, said Walter Isaacson during a keynote speech at the Envestnet Advisor Summit on Wednesday.
Isaacson, author of “The Innovators: How a Group of Innovators, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,” gave several examples of how the combination of human intuition and technology is superior to what either can do alone.
“Technology being disruptive – it’s nothing new,” he said, describing Ada Lovelace’s adoption of loom punchcards to write algorithms in the 1840s.
“She is, to me, the founder of the belief that humans and technology in partnership will always surpass what machines can do alone and what humans can do.”
One hundred years later, Alan Turing’s imitation game or Turing test pitted humans and machines against each other to answer questions. If the answers are indistinguishable, Turing posited that it was evidence the machines were thinking, Isaacson said. Turing believed machines with that capability were only 20 or 30 years in his future.
“It’s been about 70 years and we still don’t have them. Over those 70 years, people like [advisors], who use machines creatively with your own intuition, have proven the Ada Lovelace model more correct, which is that the combination is always stronger,” Isaacson said.
“No one knows who invented the internet,” he said, “because it was done in this wonderful, collaborative process.”
He quoted Edwin Land, inventor of Polaroid, who said, “Those who stand at the intersection of technology and the humanities are going to be where the value is created.”