Leaps, small and big problems

Computers are about wishful thinking. It sounds perhaps a ridiculous and odd, but it’s so true.
Basically the thing is so that
  • world has an infinite supply of little and big problems that can be solved
  • computers can be used in probably most of these cases
  • software nor devices alone rarely solve real problems, per se – change in the organization, attitudes and learning is required to some extent

Envisioning

Often computer scientists, programmers, consultants come across situations that are highly exciting – blasts of thoughts – which leave behind a settling dust of craving.

Computer science can be like maths; the little that I know of both.

First you have a curious tough nut, a problem to be cracked:

  • traffic congestion near and within metropolitan cities
  • invoice handling
  • communications between people
  • storage of video image
  • understand the brain in clinical research
  • the role of DNA in our fate
  • making marketing effective, smart and unobtrusive
  • seeking truth (scientific method)
  • writing a good book, quickly (in less than 30 days)

As the physical resources grow in computing, algorithmically speaking space and compute limits still exist. We don’t live in a panacea of computing, not yet. Perhaps basically never.

It might be that at some point we might have a scalable production automation of intelligence, that can grow the growth rate of the intelligence, which… Where this would lead us, is an open question. Some call this kind of scenario the “singularity”. Perhaps. It might be that I’m mistaken with this. Check out Kurzweil’s book “The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology”. [at Amazon]

Expectations of a perfect world?

It might be that we never will be living in a “perfect world”, even what comes to information needs.

The 1990s and early 2000 optimism about effects of the World Wide Web have probably waned somewhat due to the ‘fake news’ allegations surfacing all over the world after a historically ugly presidential elections in United States (Trump vs. Clinton).

Needless to say, those that have witnessed the evolution of the Web, did know even before an election that in the Internet, nobody knows even if you’re a dog. Internet teaches (or should teach) the crucial skill of being critical towards any news source, in a healthy way. “Not everything you see online is true.”

Some human touch needs to be input to the equation of coming up and providing better services.

When the economy heats up, and computers and all the IT are hot again, things happen. There’s a lot of things that start to happen.

Hype is a strange phenomena. World has had hype probably since inception of our brains – from as early on as we have existed. Think about a tribe, far far back in time, who discovers a more habitable environment – plenty of fruit, perhaps, fresh water, aesthetically pleasing view, fresh air, maybe other tribes.

Nowadays hype creation and sustainaining is just more controlled, pervasive, digital.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos had a really good comparison between the 2000s IT hype and the American gold rush, in California. Both phenomena have similar features: people start seeking immediate and almost inexhaustible sources of wealth.

Ramifications of the people seeking wealth

I’m actually almost oblivious to the wealth side. Of course it “would be nice”, but I’m far more interested in what the chase for wealth indirectly causes.

Or chase for leisure and pleasure, for that matter. Perhaps the latter is what actually drives people. We’re lazy. We want to enjoy life! And that’s ok.

In around the year 2000 there are innumerable stories of people switching completely from another profession to IT-related professions. During the heydays of American gold rush, people from all trades (doctors and lawyers included) left their own cities and headed west to California. Yet, very few got rich. Those that made it, also made the headlines: news spread of the positive side of digging one’s own fortune. The gold rush had a significant effect on the society and economics though since it created a lot of economic activity.

In entrepreneurship, you have an average chance of around 90% to fold (go out of business). This doesn’t keep people from establishing companies. That’s a good thing. Entrepreneurship is about the relentless and optimistic way of thinking, in addition to feet-on-the-ground sanity.

Realization: Now is the “future”

In May 2018 I merged two blogs.

Douglas Coupland being interviewed by Channel 4
author Douglas Coupland (left) interviewed on Channel 4

By importing around 100+ blog posts from “Psiic”, which was hosted on Google’s blogspot service, I also got some raw draft articles. This very post you’re looking at right now is made from one of those drafts. I believe it originates from around 2005-2006, or somewhere on the ballpark. Anyways, it’s somehow quite interesting that even though we’re basically talking a 10+ year old ideas, some of the content of what I talk about in the post has only now been turned into mainstream.

I’ve followed the birth of home computing (my podcast on it), and keep looking into the future. As we go along, it’s really interesting to see how things turn out. There are some obvious things that will happen.

I’m a big fan of simplifying the pack of gear one has to carry around. I’m totally hopeless with trying to keep things in my backpack.

It’s hard (..if not well equipped)

Yet I can’t easily let go of things, ie. when I’m going somewhere, I want to be well equipped: having all input methods (a mouse), the mouse pad, a backup battery preferably for the mobile phone – you can imagine the rest. Some perfectionism, definitely. With its ups and downs. Don’t get me wrong: I’d love to just wear stylish virtual reality goggles. And go about doing my business. But I’m not willing to sacrifice a lot of the power computing idea; the idea that I would be working with a sub-optimal setting.

“The virtual reality goggles scenario is perhaps still a good 5 to 10 years in the future”, I wrote back in 200-2006. As I’m looking at the world now in 2018 – well, people might be stumbling in the streets, but it’s because their eyes are zoomed in on the mobile phone, not because they’d be living in augmented or virtual reality.

Things like these move onward at a surprisingly slow pace, after all.

Wireless charging – great innovation

A Finnish entrepreneur came up with a very nice invention, the wireless charging for mobile phones. You’d think that it’s a no-brainer: it’s an option that would quickly permeate all over the world – I mean, who loves to carry a mobile charger around, find a suitable place and mains socket to have at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted charging – and remember: the chargers is always entangled in a chimera that takes around 10-30 seconds to unwind. It’s MESSY! Well, wireless charging hasn’t permeated the world. I bet that the number of wired charger sales has more than linearly followed the amount of mobile phones sold.

Batteries and the energy question overall, and also the very act of recharging a mobile phone’s battery is one of the Achilles’ heels of the mobiles.

Termed “Powerkiss”, the wireless charging technology along with the company was bought by a big corp. Then it almost vanished – at least to my experience. Well, turns out that when I investigated the matter further, it hadn’t vanished. Indeed many cafes around the world use this technology to enhance their services for customers.

But what’s particularly evident in the wireless charging, is of course- competing and partially incompatible standards; ways of actually making the details of the wireless charging on two ends: the phone and the charger pad. As technologist and open source advocate I’m really in a bad position to balk at competition; as a simple human and customer, oh how much I’d love simple things!

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