As a man who sprang from the ethers just as Gemini VII was performing its first rendezvous maneuver, I’m firmly planted on the major fault line of our age, the division between an analog and digital society. Kids born today develop friendships across the globe before learning to speak. When they reach adulthood, what new technologies will divide them from their children? Implants? Virtual robot selves on Mars? Already many of my former classmates seem as remote and puzzled as Neanderthals with all the new advances. Whatever side of the divide, everyone is mesmerized.
This year’s Google I/O was telling. The push to mobile, the interface changes; how many hidden menus now? The race forward is to make the device ubiquitous, interconnected with the user to the extent that, as the mother and newborn, it could be called the same entity. Already Leo Laporte, the King of the Internet, refers to Google’s infrastructure as a “neural network.” The flow of information now must soon turn from knowing the external – mapping, cross referencing with mountains of cross-references – to some internal world unknown to us: new bridges across synapses, new flavors, sounds, colors – for how long can we re-sole the same shoes?
With Google Glass, Google Now, hot words, and many new advances in the android ecosystem, we have the first branches into augmented reality. Already we’ve made the leap from tree branch to racing jet – impossible for the mind to grasp, yet it allows the unreality of flying through space, or hurtling down a freeway at the speed of death, where one wrong move…
The complexity of the android interface, doesn’t it suggest an Artificial Intelligence slowly building itself? At some point it will have no need of us, or our puny devices. Communication, what for? It already knows, predicts, forms, reforms – a plastic world, a formless world. Would we need to exist anymore as separate entities? Can our fascination with our own limbs, posteriors, noses, be supplanted? The move from biological to, what, photoplasm, will it be a sexless Mr. Manhattan who grows whatever body, exists wherever or perhaps multiple places?
I spent half the morning attempting to unlock an LG Optimus so I could load Cyanogenmod. It was a great waste of time, as the carrier would not allow it, and so the morning evaporated inside the puzzling interface. At least half the time I spend on computers is pushing the interface, trying to get more, do more, upgrade, update – in the background the stream of Google I/O, the important new developments. Larry Page closes with the remark,” Technology should do the hard work so that people can get on with the things that make them the happiest in life.”