Sunday, March 10, 2013

I was struck today at the extent to which computers are joining us in the physical world.

We were coming home from a friend's gathering. I used Google Maps to find a route and then turned Navigator on.

Debora was driving and didn't want to drive on the freeway as Google maps suggested. So got off the freeway we rode a main boulevard parallel to the freeway.

Google maps and GPS noticed we had gotten off the freeway and immediately rerouted us, telling us how to get back on the freeway. Of course we ignored its advice. It was very patient. At each new opportunity it told us to turn toward the freeway. At each opportunity we ignored its advice.  I was quite impressed with how well it followed our position and continually updated what it decided was our best route.  It was as if it was in the car with us and could see where we were.

Of course with GPS it did know where we were, but the sense of presence was much stronger than that.  It was difficult to believe that it wasn't there in the back seat watching us drive. I was pleased that it was so patient with us even though we repeatedly ignored its advice. (If it had been a bit smarter it would have noticed that we were not getting back on the freeway and would have rerouted us back home on surface streets. It's not quite that smart yet.)

I recently saw an interview with Marc Andressen in which he talked about his vision of where technology is taking us. He talked about Mirror Worlds, David Gelernter's book of two decades ago, in which he say we will soon simulate the world in enough detail to be able to know what's going on by looking at the simulation. In addition the simulation will be well enough attached to the physical world that it will be able to keep the simulation up to date.  That means we can both see pretty much all the real world as well as run experiments about possible futures with very little effort.

This seems to me to be one of the most important technological advances. It is super-augmented reality. The computer will be there in the world with us while at the same time having far greater reach of its sensors and computing capability.

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