The Conceptual Challenge of Space

The Digital Age has only a few years behind it and it is premature to analyze it from a sound historical perspective. However, it is not difficult to identify at least three challenges that appear to be crucial at the moment.

The first is the Space Challenge. Or the Form Challenge.

Digital material constructs do not undergo the spatial constraints of objectual constructs. The possible consequences have only been minimally explored up to now. The digital dimension of reality can be imagined as an infinite planet ready to welcome human life, but still to terraform. It is an exciting development opportunity in every field, but it should be exploited wisely, since it is not for free. If space is not a problem, the energy bill is. For example, some estimates calculate that today's energy consumption for the blockchain alone is eight times that of France and twice that of the USA.

An analogous reasoning applies to a very spaecial point of interest: the frontier line where digital and objectual constructs meet. The potential of Spatial Computing (or Augmented Reality or Mixed Reality, however one prefers to call this discipline) are still to be discovered and an effective "native" narrative language has yet to be invented. Again, the new generations have the rare privilege of literally being in the condition of inventing their own world. However, the exponential growth of human capacity to easily modify the surrounding environment requires the development of a "digital consciousness" that is largely absent today.

It is an urgent problem: the digital dimension of reality behaves like a black hole that continues to absorb processes at ever increasing speed as it increases its mass, without viable operating alternatives in case of system failure. A far from unlikely failure, given the lack of attention to the security and reliability of the systems on which our society largely depends. One study of 2016 of the German club car ADAC on the safety of car electronic keys offers a limited, but very significant example. It shows that 19 of the world's leading manufacturers have left their electronic keys vulnerable to simple hackings for a period ranging from 2 to 4 years. One cannot but look with concern at the soundness of a system of uncontrollable complexity which is also the result of the overlap of thousands of cases like the one just mentioned.

From the point of view of the creation and transmission of digital culture, the Space Challenge suggests at least four points for reflection:

  1. The digital dimension of reality is a world still to be explored and invented. The watchwords are creativity and innovation.

  2. The objectual dimension and the digital dimension of reality are not separate, but complementary and deeply intertwined.

  3. Digital constructs are material and do not come at zero cost for the planet: great attention must be paid to their energy consumption.

  4. The ability to change our environment thanks to technology grows exponentially with the advent of digital technology. The potential cost of errors arising from lack of impact analysis is too high not to invest in the development of a collective digital consciousness. Great responsibility comes from great power.