Seer of the mirror world [The Economist] – Embedded in this article, along with Gelernter’s thoughts about designing technology and some future-casting (expect more software agent-bots!), is some good drama about patent wars among the tech-cognoscenti.
“Google is commercially successful and dazzlingly imaginative but I don’t see what I would like to see from them, or Facebook or Twitter,” says Dr Gelernter. “They’re not turning on their imaginations”… As ever, Dr Gelernter’s excitement about the potential of new technology is tempered by frustration that too little attention is paid to aesthetic and social factors. “A lot of convenience and power could be gained, and a lot of unhappiness, irritation and missed opportunities avoided, if the industry thought about design, instead of always making it the last thing on the list,” he says. “We need more people who are at home in the worlds of art and the humanities and who are less diffident in the presence of technology. There are not enough articulate Luddite, anti-technology voices.” It is not the sort of thing you expect to hear from a professor of computer science, let alone the victim of an anti-technology extremist. But as well as having foreseen the future of computing, over his career Dr Gelernter has developed a clear understanding of humans’ conflicted relationship with the technology on which they increasingly rely.
Making Noise About People Who Talk to Their Cellphones [NYT Bits Blog] – Behaviors and sensitivities are explored and exposed as voice-activated software adds to the out-loud interactions people can have with their mobile devices now. The reaction as people feel subjected to these interactions is much more negative than we’d have (culturally) to the old-fashioned practice of overhearing two people talking, or the more desirable and salacious hobby of eavesdropping!
“As I was waiting in a Southwest Airlines cattle queue to fly back east for Thanksgiving, I was subjected to 15 minutes of listening to the man behind me as he dictated all the details of a prostate surgery into his ‘personal’ assistant,” wrote Exiled In MO from St. Louis. “People have simply lost all knowledge of what constitutes personal space and appropriate public behavior. What a noisy, sad world we’ve made.”