The etymology of the word digit is Latin. Digitus: Finger, toe. Humans have been using their digits to count for thousands of years. It could be the case that our modern decimal system, or base ten number system, an extension of Hindu-Arabic counting systems, arose from counting on ten fingers. There are other base number systems, such as the Roman numeral system which uses an intermediate base of five. Digits are composed of and used to represent data, they are a way of gathering and organizing data from physical and hypothetical worlds. The important thing to remember is that all measurement requires interaction.
For centuries our best explanations of the physical world were severely limited by the empirical fallacy. That is, our methods of measurement and understanding were limited by what we could immediately observe and experience. It was’t until the 15th century that Copernicus evidenced that our solar system is heliocentric, rather than geocentric. Still, without this knowledge many people today live with the empirical misunderstanding that the observable universe appears to rotate around the Earth. Think of the empirical fallacy as a faulty frame of reference. We know in fact that our solar system, our sun is moving and rotating around the Milky Way, which is also involved in complex motion. Everything that is, is moving, although with a limited frame of reference that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Now, consider any avenue of science you like. Take science to mean a method, a measuring process which gives us the best explanation of the way things are. There is no reason to believe humans have evolved to do good science. That is, in our current state, the vast majority of occurrences in this universe are too fast or too slow, too large, too small, too far, or invisible.
Our genes vary randomly as we evolve to promote their own production, not necessarily to advance and continue our species or inhibit our individual destruction. We have not evolved to perceive the universe as it actually is. Without technology our understanding of what goes on in the universe is severely limited in scope. Without offloading knowledge into texts and computers we don’t have an accurate or large enough memory to process very much data.
Imagine dragging files from your computer desktop into the trashcan icon. You observe it to be the case that you have thrown those files away, though this is by design. It’s an empirical error of observation. There is a better explanation, and it’s found on the back end of the user experience. Our knowledge about the environment at large is limited in such a way.
Binary number systems (base two) are used in modern computers. One of the efficient functions of binary systems is that they can take many binary inputs (data) and produce a single binary output. This condensation of information is partly why computers are getting smaller while their capacity for information storage expands. In comparison, humans do not store information perfectly or efficiently in our heads, but our bodies do produce a small amount of electricity. Our cells use electrical signals to communicate.
Although, we have never been able to store knowledge perfectly in our bodies, we have generated languages, texts and digital computers to offload this task. Without these tools much of what we do in a day would be impossible. Our phones and virtual presences store knowledge, evidence of the past, photos, and texts in a way our bodies cannot. Most of us have virtual extensions of ourselves. Before the internet, two people communicating had only the imperfect knowledge each harbored in their bodies to create good explanations on the spot. Today we carry digital extensions of our brains with us, with an ever widening bandwidth of access to knowledge.
Currently we are limited again by an empirical error. Today our ability to retrieve digital knowledge efficiently is severely limited by our digits. Most of our daily interaction with computers is through our fingertips. This will not always be the case. Eventually we will directly access the vast external flow of digital information with our brains. How will this complicate the brain body relationship? What will this do to language?
The genetic code is a language for specifying organisms. The process of replicating a genome is called a living organism. (But how did the first replicator arise?) Digitize genetic replication and you will have created a living machine organism.
We are not the inventors of the first digital computer. We are the descendants of the first digital computer. Life itself is digital.