Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Towards an anti-reductionalist software culture

Interesting short article from Jaron Lanier.
A description of my particular utopian thinking will have to wait for another month's column, but I believe the most beautiful possibilities come from treating people as mysterious wells of meaning and using technology to find new ways to connect people to each other.

Lanier, a pioneer of virtual reality, if not the pioneer, has frequently blasted the way software deisgn has developed, and in this article particularly chides mechanistic assumptions, that simply because the internet is coming to have a huge amount of information / computing power behind it, it will inherently outperform human mental activity at some stage.

Such arrogant attitudes can lead to software in some cases performing worse - one of his previous bugbears was a feature of Microsoft Word (sometimes wrongly) making assumptions about what you want, a feature that in a previous article he reckoned an engineer there told him couldn't be turned off. Often in such cases, simpler tools become preferable.

We all want to see a new generation of software come along, but it will need to work with humans, rather than trying to replace us.
The genuinely radical ideas in computer science come when people work honestly within the boundaries of what we don't know.


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