Quite some time ago I was in touch with a new startup in Montreal called Flightfox whose model is to shop around a user’s flight itinerary to a group of “flight hacking” experts who themselves are the ones that take advantage of a decade’s worth of computer-based innovation in booking flights.
This combination is perhaps one of the best exemplars of a little known book’s premise I read a dozen years back called After the Internet: Alien Intelligence.
Maybe it was the world “alien” in the book’s title that turned off readers, no, no little green men here—alien intelligence refers to how the book’s author, James Martin, explains computer intelligence will develop and not be of the same nature, ever really, of human intelligence but will instead be a kind of hyper-processing engine and intelligent entity in its own right. Something human created but which comes to be, somehow, alien.
The other point of the book, and how this relates to Flightfox, and even the scares of automation’s increasing effect on unemployment as recounted in a recent book by MIT professors called Race Against the Machine is, Flightfox is a model of a way, perhaps the only type of viable way going forward in fact, of maintaining humans in the loop of decision.
From emotions, to moral judgement, to, in the case of Flightfox, maximizing and mashing up the types of computer systems available to plan optimal trips that are not only the least expensive but also that make common sense for the client, are all really human traits that may never fully transcend to the alien—thank God.