‘Hey Google, what does this mean?’

Is the role of experience in knowledge-gathering dying as assistant AI takes centre stage in the tech landscape?

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Knowledge is important, it shapes everything we do and how we interpret the very existence that we lead.

The acquisition of knowledge has long been valued as a worthy pursuit for anyone wishing to understand more about their circumstances, as well as the secrets that the unknown holds in store for those brave enough to venture out into the dark.

We acquire knowledge through beliefs, sensory perception, memory, and induction. Whether structured or not, it is hard to resist the temptation to know more and understand some great secret that we previously could only relegate to the realms of theory.

But knowledge has always been tempered by experience, as the latter occurred the former was gained as a consequence.

Which is why the idea that experience is far less valued in the digital age is nothing new. To simply search a question online and gain knowledge is something that billions of people do every day.

With very little time invested in gaining the experience needed to acquire this information, it makes sense then that the digital era has many worried that the value of experience is waning in the face of collective knowledge in the online domain.

Some say that the era of experience-based knowledge is entirely over, others argue the knowledge must come from somewhere and that experience will always be involved in the process.

But recent technological advances have added another factor to the debate, the rise of virtual assistant software.

Whether it’s Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant or one of the myriads of other artificial intelligence-powered virtual helpers, there’s no denying that as a collective we’ve embraced hands-free technology wholeheartedly.

And there is also no denying that this tech has the potential to revolutionise how we go about our everyday lives.

From setting schedules to asking for reminders with a simple voice command, the augmentation that assistant AI has given us in the relatively small period of time it has existed for is a sight to behold.

But the issue that many cite as the problem with this software is the same as the one posed in the age-old ‘knowledge vs experience’ debate.

These assistants seek to expedite the way we go about our everyday lives, and this includes, naturally, the way we go about acquiring knowledge.

“Hey Google, how do I do this?”

“Hey Siri, what does this mean?”

“Hey Alexa, can you find me information on this?”

Phrases like these are spoken in homes and businesses around the world time and time again every single day.

Just like utilising a search engine in a more traditional hands-on sense, the experience requirement of gaining knowledge is completely removed from the equation, it’s a simple case of look and then find.

Which in turn raises the problem of ‘easy knowledge’.

Part of what made knowledge such a powerful tool in past was just how hard it was to gain. Information lines were far more primitive before the advent of the internet and knowledge moved far slower than it does now in the age of video tutorials and internet forums.

By streamlining the process and providing information after inputting only a simple verbal command to a friendly AI voice, the only struggle now is in understanding what is being delivered.

Easy knowledge is the best way to describe this phenomenon, there is no work needed, simply a request and a delivery on demand.

Which begs the question of whether there truly exists a ‘search engine’ anymore, or whether it is now ‘find engine’.

To seek knowledge was to commit to oneself to experiencing what was necessary to gain the insight and information being sought, this was the ‘search’ from which engine’s like Google took their name.

However as these searches become easier and easier, offering up more detailed and refined results as AI algorithms grow more and more sophisticated, it’s becoming more relevant to ask whether there really is a ‘search’ (and the experience that goes along with it) any more.

But, in the age of digital misinformation and fake news, perhaps deciding what the ‘right’ knowledge is, will be the new form that experience takes in this paradigm.

Asking your AI assistant a question may eliminate experience from the knowledge gathering equation, but it doesn’t stop the information you receive from needing to be held up to intense scrutiny.

Perhaps experience is simply shifting to a different form in the realm of gathering knowledge, helping us sift fact from fiction under the deluge of information we expose ourselves to every single day.

If you’re looking for knowledge that’s fact, not fiction, check out our work over at Mindhive. We combine the input of expert minds with AI-driven collective intelligence practices to help answer questions and create knowledge that’s actually built on real experience.

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Written by

Mindhive | ex — Eidos, Boilerhouse, Basement, Margaret Marr | Speaker, Author | Bringing the shared economy to problem-solving #collectiveintelligence

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