Whiteboards anywhere

Since I love whiteboards so much, one thing I eventually want from my mixed reality glasses is simply to have a whiteboard wherever I am.

My future whiteboard would not need to do any more than a whiteboard already does. I just want to be able to take out my “marker” and draw on a wall in various colors. And of course also “erase”.

If you can do just this much, that will mean you will be able to take your whiteboard with us wherever you go. You can start to work something out on the wall of your office, then bring it up again for both of us to see when you get to my office (or anywhere for that matter).

Maybe if we keep the goal simple — just whiteboards anywhere — we will be able to have this sooner rather than later. We can always add the magic Chalktalk stuff afterward.


We are developing ever more elaborate technologies for collaboration and communication. Yet I still haven’t seen anything quite as wonderful as the old fashioned whiteboard.

What is it about a whiteboard that makes it such a perfect vehicle for collaboration? Is it the physicality of it, the merging of information technology with body language?

At least for shared ideating, no communication medium that uses computers seems to be able to compete with this simple and purely physical interface. I wonder whether anything ever will.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if the answer to that question turns out to be no.

Fiction and survival of the species

It is clear that humans have a powerful instinct to tell stories and to listen to stories. In particular, most people are highly drawn to fictional stories.

What is it about fiction, a sequence of events that never happened, involving people who have never existed, that we find so compelling? If we were not so powerfully drawn to fiction, we would think it the silliest thing in the world.

Which means that our love of fiction must be deeply instinctive. And that suggests that fiction, like all powerful instincts, possesses (or once possessed) some very important survival value.

In other words, over the course of our evolution, the instinct to tell and listen to fictional stories has helped us to survive as a species. But how exactly?

I don’t know the answer, but I’ll bet it would make a great story.

Standing on the edge of time

Today, walking along the streets of Greenwich Village, I was overtaken by the strangest whim. Taking out my SmartPhone I opened up YouTube, and started playing Mandy, sung by the inimitable Barry Manilow. The lyrics blasted out for all the world to hear:

I remember all my life
Raining down as cold as ice
A shadow of a man
A face through a window
Crying in the night
The night goes into
Morning, just another day…

It was, perhaps, the single most culturally rebellious act of my life. Here I was, surrounded by cool, up-to-the-moment students from NYU and The New School, and I was blasting out the single most uncool song of all time.

There was something beautiful about the moment, the sheer overwhelming inappropriateness of my musical choice. What I was playing was so off the cultural radar that it might as well have been from another planet.

Although that moment did not occur in a vacuum. Earlier in the day, during my class lecture, I had checked the sound level by playing an excerpt from Schoenberg’s piano etudes.

The music that emerged was dissonant, atonal and heavenly. The students seemed disoriented. What was this weird noise I was subjecting them to?

“Isn’t it great?” I exclaimed with enthusiasm. “Who else here is a fan of Schoenberg?”

Dead silence. I could feel ninety pairs of young eyes just staring at me, clearly confused that I would choose to send such a strange and disquieting sound out into the universe.

Maybe I should have played them Manilow.

The ordinary and the odd

The ordinary and the odd,
Each one, I think, should get a nod.
The ordinary has its place
With steady calm its saving grace.

And yet it seems if that were all
The world would then be rather small.
With nothing odd to shake our tree
Our life could not be truly free.

For nothing jogs our intellect
Like something we did not expect,
And times when we are at our best
Are when our hearts are filled with zest,

For oddness is a dynamo!
But then again, it’s good to know
That ordinary’s OK too.
I had a nap today. Did you?

Proud of my country

I know this may seem like an odd time to say it, but I feel proud of my country. Yesterday I came back from an international flight, and saw the hard working TSA and customs officers keeping things together.

Yes, we have a president who is a complete idiot. Even worse, said idiot spent most of the first month of the new year actively trying to make the U.S. fall apart.

Interestingly, he did this just to promote his crazy Idiot Wall. By now everyone, including the people who voted from him, realize that every dollar spent on the Idiot Wall would be a dollar not available to spend on actual national security measures.

But facts are for those of us in the real world. In the fantasy world of Agent Orange, ill-conceived campaign slogans, no matter how stupid, are more important than real national security.

Which makes me especially proud of the hard working men and women who kept this country going, many without pay, even as an out of control idiot, for completely idiotic reasons, was working to destroy the country they believe in.

Next time you see one of these people at work, be nice to them. They deserve our respect.

Hidden in plain sight

Fast forward another five years or so. You wake up in the morning and put on your AR glasses, and so do all of the people you know.

Nobody even thinks about it. At least, not any more than people in 2019 think about slipping a SmartPhone into their pocket when they start the day.

But here’s a poser: if AR glasses can visually modify reality, can’t they remove AR glasses from view? Maybe one of the functions of your AR glasses will be to digitally remove the AR glasses from your view of everyone else’s face.

But suppose you actually want to see everyone else’s AR glasses. Well, that would be easy. All you’d need to do is take yours off. 🙂

Change in perspective

When I was eleven years old I loved the sort of science fiction story where some engineer is faced with a problem — maybe concerning time travel or some emergency aboard an interstellar space ship — and then cleverly figures out a way to solve that problem. I couldn’t get enough of stories like that.

I remember one time around then looking at an issue of The New Yorker magazine. I tried reading one of the short stories, since I’d heard they were very good.

I couldn’t get through it. The story was full of conversations about feelings and relationships, and all the characters in it seemed like boring people talking about meaningless things. It just didn’t seem to be about anything.

When I was eighteen I was reading a short story in The New Yorker when I recalled that experience from seven years earlier. As it happened, the story was full of conversations about feelings and relationships, and all the characters in it seemed like fascinating people talking about meaningful things.

Curious, I picked up one of the SciFi stories I had loved back when I was eleven years old. To my bemusement, I could hardly get through it. I found the story to be completely boring. It just didn’t seem to be about anything.