I distinctly remember this enlightening David Bowie interview from circa 1999, most fascinating to me is the discussion on the enigma and prodigious promise of the internet. Here is the excerpt that caught my attention:
I don't think we've even seen the tip of the iceberg. I think the potential of what the Internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. I think we're actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying…
The interviewer, Jeremy Paxman responded with a mixture of incredulity and confusion “It’s just a tool though isn’t it?”. Here again is Bowie’s response:
I'm talking about the actual context and the state of content is going to be so different to anything that we can really envisage at the moment where the interplay between the user and the provider will be so in simpatico that it is going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about.
Rewatching this interview years later I am forced to acknowledge how little I understood about how the internet was changing our society, even though I was building some of the tools that would welcome and accelerate the change. Today, I again find myself building tools for a future that I cannot fully describe or predict. However, the age of the internet taught us some valuable lessons about poorly designed guard rails and assuming good intentions. We should neither surrender these precepts or forget the way bad actors undermine these systems. We can never forget that it took years before our social networks recognized the damage being done to the most vulnerable communities.
That said, a system built around AI, that provides answers based on non-determinism and probability can feel temperamental and volatile. Capriciousness is not helpful for something as structured as a programming language or compiler. However, at the center of all this information is you, an individual with a unique and orderly context. It is this context that brings the structure, and consistency to chance and disarray. In this regard the System Thinking you provide will not only survive this AI moment but will prove to be the capability that thrives within it.