A simple little ditty: The Bureaucratic Bolero
I can't provide any sources for the following story:
Bracket Bracket has obtained the minutes of a secret meeting of consumer and computer industry big-wigs (and some former cabinet-level government officials) in a sky-box at the Super Bowl. At this meeting, a standard was agreed upon for a universal man/machine interface device.
While my desire to share the full text of the transcript is large, my deep and abiding concern for the legal ramifications of how the document was obtained prevent me from either quoting it or providing a list of exactly who was in attendance.
[Not really. I'm making all this up. I have no secret documents, really. "Secret Documents", what a silly, juvenile, overused-by-hacks turn of phrase.]
So, given that I'm too lily-livered to quote quotes and name names, I am willing to provide a sort of non-technical summary as best as I can make out.
I am not an engineer, so a lot of what's in the transcript is beyond my ability to comprehend. I recognized maybe 1/3 of the acronyms, and there are tables of frequencies and references to specifications for a chip-set that are also Greek to me. There is a section listing suppliers and developers where I recognized maybe half the company names. But, once again, I am not a good judge of the contents of these lists and tables.
Enough about me. On to the crux of the matter.
The device is a computer/cell-phone imbedded in a pair of glasses. The screen, in varying levels of transparency, appears on the lens, which is a side-lit liquid crystal display. The resolution of this image is the same as the resolution of the nerves in the eye, and it somehow takes into account that the eye has its highest resolution in the center of the field of vision, and lower resolution at the edges. The image can fill the lens or just exist as a shadow in the corner. The picture, going to both eyes, is fully 3-D. The temples of the glasses provide sound to the ears.
The drawings that accompanied the transcript show heavy black glasses. One of the guys from a university said that everybody is going to look like the architects I.M. Pei and Philip Johnson and software generators Cary Grant and Andy Warhol. He actually called Cary Grant a software generator.
Another guy said that the glasses would no doubt be able to be very, very small after a few product generations. This drew an objection from a representative of what I believe to be a biotech company. She said that while the proximity sensors imbedded in the frame could probably be further miniaturized, the muscle sensors were going to be much more difficult to further reduce, but that eventually everything could be attached surgically.
Another person objected that surgery had already been ruled out of this agreement. And the biotech person said that these agreements never last, and that despite what anyone at this meeting thought, "surgical embedding" would replace this device eventually. This caused some commotion.
A woman from some organization that I have never heard of called for order and suggested everyone move on to details of the sensors and image generators.
Basically, sensors all through the glasses frame can read the position and tension of facial muscles. Software combines this data with a set of stored head scans, and constructs an image of the user's head as it would be viewed from 2 feet away. This becomes the screen icon of each individual. An image of your head that talks and smiles when you do.
Apparently, this information is enough to construct virtual meeting rooms full of people. The sensors also pick up some information about body position too, so that a shared mall or discotheque is also theoretically possible, but these features are not implemented in the first versions of the software. They said that the "transparency of movement" problem had not yet been solved.
Here's my favorite part: the mouse.
The mouse is in your mouth. Everybody gets a tongue stud. It can look like a little diamond, or look like part of your tongue. But, in either case, piercing will finally reach the mainstream corporate types. You move your tongue around to point, and click or double-click your teeth to select. And the stud is also a microphone, so you can mumble to yourself in public without anyone really being able to hear. (There are two mikes in the frames too, and in high-end models, two TV cameras.)
One guy pointed out that everyone is going to look like a bum, stumbling around, half blind, mumbling to themselves, grinding their teeth, and occasionally shouting to no one in particular.
Somebody else pointed out that the unwanted facial expressions can all be software suppressed in the icon image of the user. The icon will look normal, even though the user will be tonguing and clicking away.
Throughout the meeting there were side conversations taking place and they were transcribed in exacting detail. One of the guys ranted and raved about the ownership of the Packers. He called it communism disguised as apple pie. The Packers model of city ownership of a commercial organization could be used when a factory moved, and that we'd end up with lots of state- and city-run corporations which would be un-American.
From the nature of the conversations, I'm not sure that all the participants knew that they were being recorded, or whether they knew that all of the side conversations were being recorded. Some of it was very personal. The majority of the side conversations were about Clinton, the game, and some gossipy discussion of corporations that were not represented at this meeting.
Some of the participants referred to the device as "looking glass" or just "the glass". Some spoke of possible bad cellular connections as "through the glass darkly." There were a lot of jokes told throughout, many of them deeply un-PC. Most of the time people were in a jovial mood, as though celebrating the completion of a big project. A few of the participants seemed to get fairly drunk. The transcript listed a lot of non-verbal or not- quite-decipherable sounds and the spellings for some of these were fairly creative. Aside from the woman who called for order, no one seemed to be in charge. Some of the participants knew the device forward and backward, others seemed to be not quite up to speed.
One person described a possible future scenario, viewing a crowd at a sporting event as a major news story breaks. Suddenly a large percentage of the crowd would stop watching the game and get a faraway, introspective look as they see the news of a war being declared or a president resigning. Then the remaining spectators will see that the others are watching something, click their teeth, mumble some commands and start watching too.
Another guy then pointed out that in the future there might not be any crowds.
And don't bother asking me for the full transcript -- I destroyed my only copy. And I never did have a copy because I'm making it all up.
JEFF GETS MUNCHIES AND EATS OREOS
STARTS EATING A LOT OF THEM
GOES TO STORE AND BUYS LOTS OF OREOS
AND STUFFS THEM IN HIS OWN MOUTH
MANY TIMES REPEATEDLY
SUDDENLY HE TURNS INTO A BIG OREO
HE REALIZES THAT HE IS A NUDE OREO
AND RUSHES TO CLOTHE HIMSELF
MEANWHILE A COP SEES HIM
AND SHOOTS AT HIM
BUT THE BULLET ONLY GRAZES HIM
AND STARTS HIM SPINNING
AND HE BEGINS TO FLY
AND HE FLIES AROUND AS PEOPLE POINT
AND HE LANDS IN THE MIDDLE OF A FOOTBALL FIELD
AND CATCHES THE BALL
AND RUNS TO TOUCHDOWN
THIS TOUCHDOWN WINS THE GAME
BUT JEFF CONTINUES RUNNING
GOES TO THE HOME OF PROFESSOR KNOWLEDGE
WHO COUNSELS HIM
AND EVENTUALLY PUTS HIM IN A MILK BATH
WHERE THE COOKIE CRUMBLES AWAY
AND JEFF IS BACK TO NORMAL
AND HE PROMISES TO DO HIS HOMEWORK FROM NOW ON
Bracket Bracket is an irregular column by Paul Smedberg.|
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