Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Web Secret #277: Web 3.0 Redux

Over 4 years ago (yikes - I've been blogging that long!) I wrote a post predicting what web 3.0 would do :
"Many experts believe that the Web 3.0 browser will act like a personal assistant. As you search the Web, the browser learns what you are interested in. The more you use the Web, the more your browser learns about you and the less specific you'll need to be with your questions. Eventually you might be able to ask your browser open questions like "where should I go for lunch?" Your browser would consult its records of what you like and dislike, take into account your current location and then suggest a list of restaurants."
It appears that Web 3.0 may actually take this a step further, as a New York Times article reports:

"A range of start-ups and big companies... are working on what is known as predictive search — new tools that act as robotic personal assistants, anticipating what you need before you ask for it. Glance at your phone in the morning, for instance, and see an alert that you need to leave early for your next meeting because of traffic, even though you never told your phone you had a meeting, or where it was....How does the phone know? Because an application has read your e-mail, scanned your calendar, tracked your location, parsed traffic patterns and figured out you need an extra half-hour to drive to the meeting."

Excuse me while I FREAK OUT!

As Claire Cain Miller, the article's author, explains "The technology is emerging now because people are desperate for ways to deal with the inundation of digital information, and because much of it is stored in the cloud where apps can easily access it."

Claire goes on to quote Amit Singhal, (Google’s senior vice president for search,) as he cheerfully remarks, "You can just imagine several years down the road, if that personal assistant was an expert in every field known to humankind."

That's the problem - I can imagine. I am a student of history and literature.

When I was a kid, 10 years before the first Apple I computer was sold, I read "The Feeling of Power" a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov, written in 1958. Isaac wasn't your run of the mill sci-fi author, he was also a brilliant scientist. He coined the term "robotics" in 1941.

But I digress. "The Feeling of Power" describes a distant future, in which humans live in a computer-aided society and have forgotten the fundamentals of mathematics, including even the rudimentary skill of counting. Only one guy on the planet, (and he has to rediscover how to do it,) can add and subtract, multiply and divide. I never forgot that story.

So I don't really want my iPhone 9 to predict that I want Chinese food, rent "I, Robot," and set my alarm clock for 7:30 am, because tomorrow is a work day. Maybe I want sushi, maybe I want to call in sick tomorrow. Maybe I don't know what I want.

Maybe I want to be in control.

I may want my iPhone 9 to drive my car. But only after I ask it.


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