The Technium


[Translations: Japanese]

Over the years I’ve had many opportunities to work with professionals from various fields. In every endeavor, computer technology is utterly transformative. But not every field gets this. Some scientists, licensed experts, and professionals are allergic to new technology.

I had an epiphany recently on why some varieties of professionals are more welcoming of disruptive technology than others.  I realized the types of pros who are most eager to employ the latest technology are those fields which have already been Turing’d.

We have this long list of tasks and occupations that we humans believe only humans can do. Used to be things like using tools, language, painting, playing chess. Now, one by one they get Turing’d. A computer beats them. Does it better.


So far we’ve can check off arithmetic, spelling, flying planes, playing chess, wiring chips, scheduling tasks, welding, etc. All have been Turing’d.

Computer scientists are great to work with, because in general they are completely fearless. They were Turing’d long ago. They grok that many of the tasks they used to do can be done much better by computers. On the other hand, doctors as a rule are loathe to accept new technology because what they do is hard to delegate to computers. Ditto for a lot of biologists.

Within biology there are certain fields that have already been Turing’d. For instance, phylogeny, the study of taxonomic trees, how different species are related to each other. Figuring out phylogenetic trees turns out to be something computers can do better than even the smartest, most learned humans — even though nobody believed this only a little while ago. So phylogenists are Turing’d and very open to new ways of doing things.


Taxonomists and field biologists, on the other hand, still believe that computers can’t recognize or classify organisms as well as human can. Ooops. They are about to be Turing’d. Doctors, too.

Once you are Turing’d it is much easier to believe other occupations which we humans used to do uniquely, can be done by computers. You tend to be open to disruptive technology in all parts of your life.

Have you been Turing’d?


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