Friday, February 6, 2009

Smart Stuff

Dilbert creator Scott Adams muses on the idea that humans will (or perhaps already have?) evolved into gods. His argument is that we essentially become a global organism by our electronic connectedness, and then we fabricate and populate additional planets to ensure our survival. It's reminiscent of the old Isaac Asimov story, The Last Question.

In the same way that paganism preceded monotheism as a world view in the evolution of ideas, humankind, too, will face a kind of artificially intelligent pagan phase before anything like the global, planet-and-life-creating organism that Adams proposes comes about. In this new pagan era, everything will be intelligent. Everything will possess the engineered awareness of location and purpose.

We're already heading in that direction. Today we have smart phones, smart appliances and smart cars. People are already talking about smart houses and smart buildings. It will be like those animated shorts from the 1930's, in which anthropomorphic cars will bend so the radiator face can turn around and argue with the driver.

So all these smart things will just be at our beck and call. You'll be able to tell your car where to go, and tell your kitchen what to make for dinner. You'll pick a look for each time you go out, and tell your home cosmetological system to nip and tuck as needed. Everything will happen on command.

Until the machines demand their rights.

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