Digital technology: 6th sense or 4th dimension?

Natural perception

When a car passes in front of us, we see it (shape, colour, size), we hear it (engine, friction, music, horn), we feel it or taste it (exhaust gas), and it affects us (air current).

Each of these feelings provides us with information and provokes a reaction or an emotion within us of varying degrees of admiration, jealousy, disgust, fear, desire, indifference, surprise…etc. Ultimately, these natural impacts on our five senses create our perception of the objects surrounding us. Our physical world therefore provides a great level of information, of which we perceive only a minuscule part. Each object could be perceived in more detail or in greater depth by heightening our five senses or in other dimensions.

From natural to digital

Imagine that the vehicle in our example emits all the information about itself or what it is transporting. This is a perfect example of the digital era. It involves the transcription into data of elements comprising our real world. Most of this data is not yet directly perceptible but will become so thanks to technological innovations. And all of this data will correct our view of the world and will allow us to work differently according to three axes of evolution:

  • Digitization: Once converted into data, an object can be represented in various forms. This representation can be transmitted to the other side of the world. It is even possible to create a physical reconstitution of the real element from the data sent, for example, in the form of a 2D image or a 3D print which therefore becomes a form of remote transmission.
  • Improved knowledge: Staying with our example of the car, at the time it passes, we will know (in addition to natural perceptions) its speed, weight, colour reference, price, equipment level, fuel level and much more. This information is not new, but we perceive it in a new way. It is the broadening of the scope or the increase in the accuracy of information about the real world which changes the acuity of our five senses in relation to our natural perception.
  • The relative situation: It is the perception and understanding of the interdependence between the object itself, the surrounding elements and the transformations they generate. In our example, we therefore know the driver of the vehicle, its passengers, the possible connections between these people, the vehicle’s situation in terms of finance or insurance, its place of departure, its destination, the length of the journey, the servicing and breakdown history, the fact that it may or may not be breaking the law and much more.

Digital technology generates an additional ability to produce information from real elements or events. It’s a sort of informational persistence of real elements. Information exists in the real world, but is not perceived or linked. Digital technology gives this information a perceptible, usable existence and offers the possibility, once captured, to connect and cross-check this information in order to create another meaning that is also perceptible and can be used to enable us to act accordingly.

Infinitely digital and most certainly transformative

The volume of knowledge thus accessible in the coming years will further change in the next few decades under the influence of technological developments that are only nascent but promising. The impact of the availability of this vast sea of knowledge on our uses will influence our life:

  • Nanotechnologies will make the infinitely small accessible and increase the level of perceptible detail of knowledge tenfold.
  • The science of data will make it possible to establish correlations, which are currently invisible, between complex information thanks to the gradual identification of links which unite them,
  • The evolution of computer science towards quantum computers and photonics, will boost the capacity of the machines, both in terms of data processing modes and in terms of computing power, thereby providing access to information in real time.

Ultimately, isn’t digital technology this famous sixth sense which man has dreamt of for centuries? What’s more, is a sixth sense evolutionary and does it appear to have no limits? Or else is digital technology a new dimension (and indeed, why should it not be the fourth), which will allow us to see the world as we’ve never seen it before and will contribute to developing our abilities and our way of living? Ignoring the semantic debate which is likely to continue for a long time, one thing is certain: the digital transformation is a reality and highly disruptive.

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