Bracket Bracket 21 Branded Conversation Engines

a rant about the future of the computer, the portal and partying by Paul Smedberg

Party Minus One

What, I ask you, is the most satisfying form of communication?

Well, other than sex . . .
. . . It's conversation.

As ever, the model of the future is the model of the past, only more-so.

The oral tradition is the next bit thing.

There will be a terminal form of the computer.

Yes, terminal as in final.

Look at the farm cart of the last couple thousand years. There was one basic design, with variants, just about everywhere. The height of the sides, the position of the wheels, the shape of the harness, all that stuff.

A great many things have one terminal design: 
grand pianos. 

All are at design terminus. 

Sure, there will be variations in the quality and design of computers, just like there are variations in the quality and design of couches. But everyone has memorized the instructions for how to use a couch. You see one, and you know just what to do.

MIT's Wearable Computer
Design Specifications 2.0.5

of such a kind or nature that one specimin or part may be used in place of another specimen . . . interchangeable.
The same is going to happen for software applications.

Not just the disappearance of the computer into the mundane fabric (literally) of life, but the disappearance of applications too. 

We now have a terminal word processor. More-or-less a terminal spreadsheet.

Soon data handling, graphics, communications, filmmaking, browsers, etc. will have a flattening curve of innovation approaching terminus. 

And real soon too. 

All physical things, most services and most applications will be fungible commodities. Flour used to be branded, back when quality varied. Now it's a commodity. Once cars become robotized, they'll all be taxis, which are a commodity. Sure there will be exceptions - there's still organic mixed-grain prairie flour. Luxury brands will hold a widening niche. A Rolex Oyster functions identically to a $7.99 Timex, but there will always be a Rolex. There will always be a hand-thrown pot.

Everyone will wear the comoditized tv/phone/computer convergence device.

There will rarely be separate screens for group viewing. 

People can get together in a stadium to watch the big game, they just won't have to all face in the same direction anymore.

You'll be at a party and a little group of people laughs at the same time. But, so does this other guy on the far side of the room. They all heard the same joke at the same time. 

And, there's a guy working late, who couldn't make the party. He laughed at the same time too.

Party Minus One

Party Minus One is what will replace the portal and chatroom.

You walk into a room, 
filled with virtual celebrity personalities
and/or avatars of real people.

You walk up to the late Gene Siskel, 
he greets you pleasantly by name,
asks you how you liked the vid he recommended last week.

He'll remember how you answer. 

He'll deliver a good witicism that you haven't heard before based on your answer.

Look over there, 
its Greil Marcus, 
Martha Stewart, 
Bill Cosby, 
Sigmund Freud,
Rachel from Friends,
Robert Hughes, 
Charlene Hunter-Gault,
and Thomas Jefferson for crying out loud.

They're good friends.
They respect you.
They help you and provide advice.

Music Minus One
Music Minus One is a 50 year old company which provides recordings of music without the significant soloist. On your solo instrument, you play along with the professional musicians.
The red squiggles on this page are letters of the alphabet in the typeface Shelly Vollante that have been flipped horizontally.
Synthetic Turing Personalities
will be your portals. They'll help you find stuff and entertain you with conversation.

They're branded conversation engines.

The virtual party of critics and personalities will bear the stamp of your preferences and tastes. 

once you're really connected . . .

If you're consuming some media and your vital signs show that your mind is wandering, something sexy or beautiful or explosive or fascinating will suddenly occur. 

The sort of sequence of events that caused your mind to wander will be purged from the next entertainment. It will all be so . . . interesting everything, all the time. 

Then, of course, the inevitable collapse of civilization. . . .

A new economy based on AK-47 ammunition and canned peaches. 
But that's a ways off.

The Turing Test

Taking the test: You sit alone in a room and send questions to two hidden participants. One of the participants is a person and the other is a computer. Your job is to figure out which is which.

In the 50s Turing guessed that it would take about 50 years before a computer could consistently fool you.

More about Alan Turing


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Copyright 1999 Paul Smedberg