A smart device is not so much a machine that comes with all the inbuilt capabilities its user will ever need as it is a machine that has the inbuilt ability to interact and learn. Over several iterations and interactions with its user, it learns and never stops learning how to respond to its user’s need, making it smarter each time.
Take a look at the devices that have accumulated all this information about you and are able to make recommendations tailored to you – from your search engine to Google maps to Netflix to your phone’s autocorrect. I am impressed by how my iPhone autocorrect has memorized all my Igbo words, my Nigerian slangs and pidgin English, and even comes up with slangs when I am actually trying to write formal English😛.
The cool thing about being “smart”- and I use this in the sense I have discussed above – is that the more you learn, the more you are able to learn. This open view of “smartness” as applied to machines is useful in thinking of smartness as it applies to humans and the products, services, systems we create. Were we to understand being smart as paying attention, asking thoughtful questions, and adapting based on information, I think we could elevate our capacity to solve problems.
Take business for example.
It may sound idealistic to see exchanges of capital as in business as being about service, as most times there are other pressing demands – bills, responsibilities, etc – that may narrow our view of business exchanges to simply being about transacting. However, at its best business can be transformative – as you learn from your user while you meet their need – and an act of service – having learnt from your user and several users in several contexts, you become better at predicting and meeting their needs and that of the collective.
You learn what services they tend to want. You learn their challenges. Your predictive ability increases and therefore your efficiency and effectiveness at problem solving. This is not because you came fully formed but because each interaction was actually your teacher – the more you met their needs and listened, the more you grew your ability to meet future needs. And you can only get smarter each time.
This could be on a one-on-one level or even at the level of a system where the more willing a system is to listen to its constituents and the more keen it is to adapt to their needs, the better outcomes we will be able to see. It becomes a smart system. In this sense, smartness is so much more than your preset configuration while this may be helpful. However to maximize whatever innate smarts, being smart has to be more about listening, questioning and adapting – skillsets of their own.