The cascade of technological hurdles overcome daily to reach the singularity may be nefarious according to Jaron Lanier, but being overcome they are.
Witness Watson in your pocket, augmented reality, or at least a wearable Internet, maybe driverless cars, 5G wireless, etc.
Yes the future is here and yes it is in no way evenly distributed.
The power of databases and computer code to quantify, tabulate, and automate, according to logical rules is perhaps only in its infancy, with an adolescence though, which may not take that long to get to and shoot through.
The reams of data interconnections being built into our collective networks threaten to take humans out of the loop. Humans may continue to have a leg up on computers for such things as the particularities of common sense, recognizing objects quickly, and perhaps understanding emotions, but for how long will we be able to compete against Watson-like processing in specialized knowledge tasks when the computer can comb through the world’s knowledge relentlessly and almost instantaneously… and as this knowledge/data grows exponentially daily, people may be able to still access (theoretically) all the world’s knowledge through things like a Google query, but does anyone really know the right question to ask any more?
Phenoms like Nate Silver are only just the beginning. Infographics like Sesame Street for the uninitiated.
The haphazard way our world was once run and is still largely being run will change once worldwide data/logic is superimposed affecting all decisions hence-forth in a super-rationalistic way, or so goes the dream.
A technical writer must then to cater to this increasingly specialized audience as computer intelligence and automation render the low hanging fruit of simpler tasks once performed by humans — I covered at the beginning of my career — out of the loop.
And this is indeed what I have been finding writing now for ever-narrower ever-more-specialized audiences.
Of course there’s still a divide between such domains as business intelligence, logistics, and network performance management, and others such as special effects and live interactive systems. The latter allowing for much more non-mediated forms of human creativity and therefore more room for a decidedly more human-oriented tech writer to insert themselves: like me.
I think there’s no right answer when it comes to the proportion of human control in software. Each piece addresses specific problems and therefore is unique. Some require more human intervention for obvious reasons such as artistic creativity, as mentioned, others perhaps more for mundane reasons such as regulations, compliance, or for some related procedural-type issue.
As a technical communicator and writer who started his career in 2001 I move along with systems at breakneck speed and so can only say that it is my responsibility to look at each project anew taking into account the shifting sands of each new technical reality in its full context all the while with the ability to reference the past when necessary.
For now at least humans are mostly still part of the equation or at least somewhat and partially and so good technical writing remains a support.
Update: Watson in Your Pocket Indeed (November 12, 2013)
Watson will now indeed be available in your pocket. See an update via the New York Times, about making a more powerful version of Watson available over the Internet.