Haydn Sweterlitsch gave a thought-provoking talk by entitled “Can inspiration be automated?” this past week at the Seattle Interactive Conference (#SIC16).

If you’re short on time, the answer to Haydn’s question is: No. That being said, the reasoning behind this answer and the implications of it are much more valuable than the answer itself.

There seems to be few limits to the things we can program machines to do: landing on asteroids, instant global communications, and manipulating human genetics are a few tasks that would have seemed like it was read out of a science fiction novel just a lifetime ago.  Yet we know today that such achievements barely scratch the surface of possibilities of what is to come.

The bounds of machines may seem limitless, but only in the dimension of what we are able to program them to do.  Massive progress has been made getting humans to work faster, stronger, and smarter because of automated machine algorithms – but ZERO progress has been made that allows machines to feel any type of human emotion. Basically, we have yet to understand how to code an algorithm for consciousness.

As the razor thin line between biology and technology further dissolves with the passing of scientific breakthroughs, there will come a time where the definition of what it means to be human will need to be elaborated upon.  To be clear, there is a critical difference between (A) a human body outfitted with machine parts and (B) a machine that contains a human mind.  We are approaching extremes of bio-technology where people become more and more reliant on technology for day to day life, so the line that separates (A) and (B) has shifted from  philosophical debate to a seriously legitimate discussion.

As Haydn stated during his talk, “Inspiration is Magic”.  That’s because inspiration seems to come out of nowhere and its origins remain an enigma that cannot be coded to this day.  This inevitably shines a spotlight on the the human mind as the only tool known to generate creative ideas and inspirational concepts.

No amount of machine knowing could ever equate to a single iota of human feeling; unfortunately, the relentless push for technological automation remains mainstream while the human mind – the most complex and valuable asset known, often takes a back seat. Inspiration and creativity is a bi-product of consciousness which continues to resist codification, so it is absolutely paramount that the human mind not be taken for granted as we recognize the incredible potential within every human being.

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