Digitalized World


Digitalized World

I was using Photoshop software the other day. While flipping through different filter effects, I was marveled at how previously complicated work can now be done by a simple click of mouse: red eye removing, color layering, color adjustment and shading et al. As long as the picture is digitalized, the creativity is limitless. The super-speed computers have not only relieved us from repetitive work, but also are handling increasingly complicated tasks. As it may sound, we should be enjoying a good quality of living without working too hard. Unfortunately (fortunately?) human species always craved for better – we are nevertheless filling up the newly free time for more sophisticated works. Thanks for digitalization, new Star War movies are made with a magnificent scale, minute details and 80% on a computer monitor; the time of modeling beautiful space ships hanging by silver strings is gone.

The imaging and video processing are only a very small facet of the whole digitalized world: digital cameras, GPS, car assembling line, cars, TVs, mobile networks and even nuclear fusion; it is everywhere around us, some are visible, others are subtle. With the help of digitalization, we are measuring the world we are living with pinpoint precision: what the temperature is, what color we use for walls, what size is our shoes; digitalization also help us to launch a rocket, to detect the macro climate change, to model the DNA root of a human disease.

It is a global faze over digitalization. Digitalization increases productivity multiple folds wherever it goes. Almost anything can be digitalized. As soon as it has been defined and quantified, it can be coded and automated. Complicated softwares are now enabling individuals to compete with multinational conglomerates; Internet is becoming the biggest library where amass great amount of wisdom and knowledge at the speed of light! Everyday new things are being digitalized; and they are being digitalized faster and better.

Are we heading towards a world of numbers and algorithms? If that is the direction, it has a serious implication: it is a perfect world with no ambiguity and everything follows an universal rule. Is this the millennium sought “universal rule” by philosophers? It can’t be. The science has already proven that we cannot predict future, because we cannot know the exact state of anything without modifying its next direction. And without knowing the current state, there is no base of any prediction.

Then there must be a limit for the digitalization – a barrier like the speed of light to physics. There must be things that cannot be digitalized. What are they? Emotions?  That is not the answer, computer games are making revolutionary progress to improving AI – artificial characters are being made so vivid that behave almost close to real human; Social life? Facebook, MySpace are doing remarkably well in bringing people’s personal life online; Enjoyment? Virtual world is becoming a global phenomenon that people are recognizing online gaming like World of Warcraft a quality way of spending family time. Family can now enjoy a friendly tennis match in front of its HDTV through a WII handle.

What cannot be digitalized?

Is there anything that cannot be numbered?  Yes, and the answer is the number itself. Each number provides a reference to a defined database: an attribute, the color, redness, thickness, pressure, speed; however, number is not the reference.  This fundamental analog (real) element cannot be digitalized. Let us take the example of temperature. We defined the boiling degree to be 100 Celsius and freezing point to be 0 Celsius. We use number to measure the temperature; but the number is not temperature itself. The real element can change over a period of time (it definitely will be. As our event timeline pushes us into an ever interwoven world). And for every change, we need to redefine the numbers as well. Therefore, later on air pressure and water purity were added to the definition.

The real element can never be digitalized. Computer cannot make create a song, nor can it make a movie.  The numbers only refer to some predefined source, be it an image or sound; then algorithm link them together in a very sophisticated way to represent the virtual reality. However that digitalized the creation process can be in the future, the thought like all the other real element in the world can never be digitalized.

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