Since the 1950s, and with increasing frequency since the introduction of the internet and our powerful modern computing machines, the term “wetware” has been introduced into our vernacular. “Wetware” is a useful metaphor for the human brain and mind, and allows us to both integrate with, and distinguish ourselves from, the increasingly intelligent machines we use.
The ‘hardware’ component of wetware concerns the bioelectric and biochemical properties of the central nervous system, specifically the brain. If the sequence of impulses traveling across the various neurons are thought of symbolically as software, then the physical neurons would be hardware.
According the excellent Wikipedia article on the subject:
“The ‘hardware’ component of wetware concerns the bioelectric and biochemical properties of the central nervous system, specifically the brain. If the sequence of impulses traveling across the various neurons are thought of symbolically as software, then the physical neurons would be hardware.”
While this analogy has some usefulness, the facts remain that:
a) Our systems are organic (biological) and not purely mechanical. They are living systems, in other words, and
b) Our wetware is the framework for consciousness, i.e., self-awareness and volition. Scientists have yet to find the ‘location’ of consciousness, and yet we experience this phenomenon every minute of the day.
The reason why we bring this up is: To produce the kind of creativity, originality, customization and innovation that is increasingly required to have a successful business in today’s most developed economies, we need to develop ways to use our wetware most effectively. And this will not come from treating our minds like machines.
Daniel Pink, in a number of best-selling books of the last two decades including Free Agent Nation and A Whole New Mind, made the important distinction that jobs that are algorithmic (procedural, linear, consistent in sequence) are easily outsourced or digitized. Whereas jobs that require creative problem-solving and empathy, such as being a furniture designer or a psychotherapist or an urban planner, just to name a few, are difficult or impossible to digitize. One requires an intelligent, imaginative, and intuitive human being – i.e., wetware – to do those jobs properly.
At L’Institut, we believe in, and spend inordinate amounts of time on, developing wetware techniques and tools that ensure we use the limitless powers of the human mind in order to solve problems, or to create new visions of what’s possible. While the human mind may not be able to calculate equations as rapidly as a computer, the non-linear, associative, imaginative capacities of the mind are vast. And we would argue that they are impossible to match with even the most sophisticated computer or algorithm.
Unlocking the potential of the mind — both on an individual and collective level — to understand and create, is the only way to change human behaviours and environments for the better.
In other words, long live wetware!