Life stream

October 23rd, 2021

When we do finally reach the point where everybody has those wearables, a very strange phenomenon will occur. Some people will start to post their life stream as a matter of course, and other people will start to become addicted to the moment by moment experience of being somebody else.

For some people with weak egos, this will result in a loosening of the sense of identity itself. Rather than being themselves, they will start to have the illusion of being somebody else.

I do not think that this will be a good thing.

Elephant

October 22nd, 2021

At a project meeting this week, we were discussing the future of mixed reality. At one point somebody wondered whether at some point we would no longer know the difference between real and virtual.

I replied that humans started blurring the distinction between real and virtual when we developed the instinct for language. “For example,” I said, “If I say the word ‘elephant’, you all picture an elephant in your heads. We need only words to slip into a virtual space. No computers required.”

One of the grad students said “Wow, mind blown. I am going to spend the whole weekend wrapping my head around that.”

But for me, this is not profound — it’s simply the basis of all communication technologies since the dawn of time. We develop successive technologies — written language, books, movie, radio, the internet, VR, and whatever comes next — as natural outgrowths of our instinctive capability of abstract language.

Whether it’s prose on papyrus or VR on a Vive, the details are not what’s important. What is important is that we are the species that embraces the virtual. And we do it so easily that we don’t quite notice that this is just exactly what we have always done.

Hybrid

October 21st, 2021

I am becoming ever more convinced that when we emerge from this pandemic, there will be a new appreciation for hybrid forms of meeting. Meeting in person will no longer be the gold standard for everything. Instead, partly because of all of the tools that are being developed now to make online meeting both productive and enjoyable, we will more often choose to meet online even when we could have met in person.

It is not that one will replace the other, but rather that they will be seen as two perfectly valid and complementary ways of meeting. The hybrid that will emerge will likely be, in many ways, greater than the sum of its parts.

Good day’s work

October 20th, 2021

There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of putting in a good day’s work. Today was one of those good days.

I’m going to savor it.

Redefining words

October 19th, 2021

I remember back when Microsoft was first pushing the Hololens, they redefined the word “hologram” to mean something different from hologram. Because there was a big marketing push behind it, a lot of people started to call things holograms that were not holograms.

Now something similar is happening with the word “metaverse”. The word has a very specific meaning, dating back to when Neil Stephenson coined it in his 1992 novel Snow Crash.

But now Facebook is rebranding it to mean something different. I wonder whether the original meaning will become lost as the word is, um, “borrowed” for commercial purposes.

That would be a shame. In its original sense, “metaverse” was a word of great power and vision. I hope we don’t end up losing that.

Dealing with reality through unreality

October 18th, 2021

Maybe one of the reasons that we indulge so much, as a species, in various forms of fiction, is that reality itself can be so difficult. We give ourselves permission to experience the intense shocks that fate can hand us through the agency of people who don’t exist.

Perhaps in this way we train ourselves to deal with the real thing when it inevitably comes our way.

This is only a theory. But maybe not a bad one.

The end of trivia contests

October 17th, 2021

There will come a point — I don’t know when — after which everyone you know will have a direct brain interface to the Cloud. We will all have instant and effortless access to all human knowledge That moment will mark a kind of transition in the human species.

How do we know when that moment has arrived? I think it will be precisely when the very idea of trivia contests will seem absurd.

Troll Hunters

October 16th, 2021

Troll Hunters: The best thing ever to come out of Netflix.

Is that too controversial?

Bureaucracy

October 15th, 2021

I have been battling bureaucracy in the place where I work. It has not been pleasant.

I am gaining a new appreciation for the power of bureaucracy. In particular, for the power of systems that are designed around rules for the sake of saying “see, we have rules”, without regard to the fact that reality does not conform to rules and real people are not interchangeable bodies or countable heads.

Unfortunately, knowing that does not help in battling the bureaucracy. It just helps me be even more motivated to overcome it in the end.

The long lens of history

October 14th, 2021

Today, in 1066, was the beginning of the Norman conquest. The Battle of Hastings, the one that started it all, began on October 14.

Today is also the day in history — in the year 1322 –- when Robert the Bruce of Scotland defeated King Edward II of England.

It is not clear whether, through the long lens of history, the second event was as momentous as the first. But I am including it anyway.

Why? Because I really really enjoy saying “Robert the Bruce”.