I have always loved books and films about the future – A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, 1984, Blade Runner, AI, iRobot, Minority Report, Demolition Man even Back to the Future 2 all make me wide eyed, thoughtful about the future and what it might bring.
What I find most fascinating about these movies is the way they tap into the insight of the human fear of not being able to control what we ourselves have developed as we evolve into this strange new world.
This week has been particularly interesting in this space for me as I have seen some real life things happen that suggest to me that the dystopias predicted in some of my favourite stories happily may never come to pass. No need to worry about your family robot attacking you in 2020 just quite yet, in fact, it feels more and more man is taking back control of technology and, its technology that is now evolving to become more human friendly.
Four human friendly things I’ve seen this week
“SixthSense’ is a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information.”
He talks about how we grew up interacting with physical objects and questions why can’t we interact with computers the way we interact with the real world? Why can’t we use any physical object and interact with it with natural gestures?
The technology he has developed to answer these questions is incredible. One use is actually allowing us to take a photo by simply doing the gesture of taking a photo or dial a phone number using your hand.
I remember being in awe when my CompSci lecturer talked about wearing clothes that would also be computers back in 1998. Now we face the real prospect of any physical object being able to be a part of our computing interface. Even the old fashioned, but tried and tested, paper.
2. Building on this, there are some other cool AI developments featured in Gavin’s Servant of Chaos blog post on AI and where it might be going as we head towards 2020, which really excite me. Again, it really shows how this using technology to make this most of our human to human interaction, not get in the way of our relationships. I also really liked the thought about looking back at the past to envisage the possibilities of the future, again reminding me of the fantastical fictional depiction’s of the future I mentioned earlier and got me thinking whether we can learn from their predications?
3. Both of the above might be a little way in the future, but right here in the present I have also seen a number of tweets comment on how iPad’s are being noted for being so much more instinctive for kids and even animals.
4. The next example is also happening right now, the Foursquare and Meet- Up collaboration. Using technology to help bring likeminded people together in a physical location to share a connection, simple – but something I believe, as I have previously mentioned, can make us happier people.
Technology, evolution and… school uniforms.
I’m not going to pretend to know much about evolution, but much of what I am seeing with technology at the moment reminds me of a random anecdote my crazy High School English teacher talked about that really stuck in my mind. He was a stickler for uniform and smartness, and used to talk about the fact that the evolution of fashion amazed him. Through the ages we developed more and more complex approaches to fashion, often at serious discomfort to ourselves – only to start going backwards in the 20th century when we seemed to realise what we were doing with it wasn’t really practical. He used to look on dismayed at what the kids considered uniform back in the 90s muttering that he thought it was going backwards so fast eventually we would all end up dressing like cavemen again one day. Whilst he was just cutely getting disgruntled with the standards of smartness, I think looking back there was actually a fascinating evolutionary comment in what he was saying.
I just wonder whether the developments in the examples above are a sign that our formal, uncomfortable relationship with technology is coming to an end? Is it time for us to get more casual and importantly comfortable? Remembering we created it to help us in our lives as humans, not get in the way of us doing what we are naturally designed to do. Now, I am watching real life wide eyed.