Monday, September 15, 2014

Further to Tech

After considerable pressure from friends, family, employer, I have at last embraced the Dark Side, and in consequence the number of people in North America who do not own mobile phones has fallen from 250 to 249. I presently look at the device with a certain sour suspicion, but I imagine that a few months from now the Kool-Aid blood levels will have risen to life-threatening numbers. I still don't feel good about this.

The graphic has been lifted, with unauthorized gratitude, from

Remembering 2001

No, not that one. The one from 1968.

In the book HAL's Legacy, contributor Donald Norman points out a number of particulars in which the filmmakers were mistaken as to the direction that computer interfaces were to take. What's sad, though, is that, HAL conspicuously excepted (and we now have automated subroutines that can mimic very sophisticated elements of human cognition without, as yet, a trace of actual self-awareness*), a rationally-ordered global civilization could have accomplished much of the spread into space envisaged by 2001: the orbiting wheel, the moon bases, even a manned mission to the outer planets would all have been plausibly within the reach of a planetary society less determined to squander its treasure and energies on plunder and war. Kubrick's vision is a reproach to our failure, and also a transcendent cultural artifact of the last century, fit to stand comparison with Genesis or the Iliad as expressions in mythic terms of their respective civilizations.

*This will, I predict, come about in my lifetime, should I have the misfortune to reach my father’s present age (he’s closing on 93 in another fortnight; I’m 62), and when software sentience is at last detected I suspect it will be some years after the fact.