We live in the era of machines. They are everywhere. Slowly but ubiquitously, they are taking over our lives. As they do, they get increasingly intelligent. You coffee machine now comes equipped with state of the art processors that would put the first satellite to shame.  With every passing day, machines also learn from you and their own world. Experts distinguish this by calling it supervised learning and unsupervised learning. Supervised is when a human intervenes to teach the machine something. Unsupervised is when machines observe their own actions and learn from it. Both improve the capacity of the machine everyday. People talk about an era where machines will take over our world.

Equally, the human capacity to learn is on the threshold of change. The ability to transfer vast quantities of information directly into the brain – say the French language – for example is around the corner. This will ensure that the speed with which humans can acquire information will change rapidly. Much like the machine, humans too can upload information in real time.

My dad talks about a very interesting hierarchy of cognition. To go from data to wisdom requires several steps. You start from data. This used well can convert to knowledge. Applied this can become Intelligence. Finally you acquire wisdom. You could start with all the data in the world but never acquire wisdom. You see it all around you. Even though it may take time to learn something, the information about the French language is fairly well discovered. What takes you from comprehending French to being able to form good judgements?  Do you even need French to do so?

In the potential race between man and machine, the ability to use vast troves of data but  convert it into applied wisdom will make a key difference. Currently, the human race takes decades to acquire wisdom. The machine might never do so. Is this our competitive advantage in learning over the machine?