11.0101 future of computing

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Fri, 13 Jun 1997 09:46:55 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 101.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Thu, 12 Jun 1997 11:05:23 -0400
From: Hope Greenberg <hope.greenberg@uvm.edu>
Subject: Re: 11.0098 challenges & other Online matters

> Soon like Star Trek: "Computer, locate all the
> places in English literature where...."?

In the original Star Trek series, the computer occasionally had a voice,
but was usually a box with blinking lights, toggle switches, and a slot
into which one fed small rectangular plastic chips (rather like 3.5 inch
floppies). In the more recent incarnations of Star Trek the computer is
usually a voice, an omnipresence with which one communicates through
speech, though the occasional manual buttons under backlit panels are
also much in evidence. The former seems rather laughably limited, the
latter seems much more wonderfully useful, but we must remember that
both are simply reflections of the times in which they were created, and
both share a certain conceptual framework.

In both cases the computer is definitely the Other, omnipresent,
perhaps, but still an external entity. But in our own reality will the
computer remain an external entity, easily identified as the Other or
will it become much more invisible, more integrated into the world
around us? Will the computer be outside us or will we live in and with
the computer? I am not going so far as suggesting that in five years we
will be "jacking in" a la Gibson. But take an example: You get dressed
in the morning. As you walk to a nearby restaurant where you will be
meeting someone you are charging your shoes which then supply power to
your hat. Part of your hat is collecting visual data from around you,
while another portion displays information to you at eye level. When you
meet your party you shake hands, which initiates a data connection,
passing her resume, research information, or other data to you. After
the meeting you continue to your part-time office. Your hand on the
doorknob initiates a security check which unlocks the door for you and
delivers your e-mail...

Well, I could go on. For many years we have been bombarded with and,
indeed have fun laughing at, visions of wondrous future technology.
Oddly enough, the things I describe above are already happening (see
MIT's Wearble Computing pages at:
http://lcs.www.media.mit.edu/projects/wearable/ for examples).

So, what happens to education and universities (which are not the same
thing) in a world where computing is much more ubiquitous than it is

- Hope

Hope Greenberg
University of Vermont