Response: Digitize Everything

Spreading news real time about the situation of natural disasters, calculating the optimum path to get to a certain destination… all these and many more applications are examples of the endless capabilities created by the phenomenon of digitization.

In “The Digitization of Just About Anything”, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee discuss digitization as the third fundamental force that made the second machine age possible. They describe digitization as, essentially, the process of transforming all kinds of media and information into “the ones and zeroes that are the native language of computers”. The “magic” of digitization is the way it is non-rival, or basically indefinitely available, and also extremely cheap and easy to replicate and distribute. Both of these properties allow for the endless possibilities held by digitization, as it allows for the easy and rapid spreading of information.

There were two (rather obvious on my part) observations in this reading that really caught my attention. The first was the distinction between waze and any other GPS program elaborated in previous years. Both types of applications have ultimately the same goal: to lead a person to their destination through the most optimal of routes. However, the way and the considerations they use to establish such solutions are the prime distinction between both aspects. In the case of the traditional GPS, it simply considers the shortest route available. On the other hand, in the case of Waze, digitization is used to obtain real-life data contributed by users. Following from the concept that digital information is effortlessly reproduced and distributed, Waze uses their users’ inputs regarding weather conditions, police cars, car accidents, etc. to build their information and establish the optimum routes. This, once again, highlights the sheer capabilities posed by digitization and user-created information databases.

The final observation posed by this reading was the aspect of free and easily distributable material, and their counterargument to the notion that “time is money”. In current times, where most content is open-source and available for anyone to use, it has become easier than ever to learn and create new products. Either as sources of inspiration, as references, or even as a means to create new tools, all the different products created and distributed through digitization has ultimately led to an era that fosters and cultivates knowledge through seemingly effortless means. This (as I said before, rather obvious) observation is one that I had not actually thought about much before until this reading, which really highlights the possibilities of creating new and original content thanks to the wonders of digitization.