Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I've not tried the new iPhone or Siri. I do think it is fairly likely that in ten years we'll look back and marvel at Steve Jobs dying a day after what we will rightly see as his last great triumph. Or perhaps the technology behind Siri is actually shit and will be quickly forgotten. I don't know.

I do think, however, that while Jobs' "reality distortion field" has left this dimension, Siri may also bode the evaporation of Microsoft's inverse negative distortion field. This was a miasma of suck that made cool things seem impossible.

Twenty years ago everyone who considered the issue knew that in the future they wanted a tablet computer that would respond to verbal natural language commands. A combination of premature births or late-term abortions (Newton), half-measures (PalmOS), overly expensive demos (Surface) and plain old suckitude (TabletPC) had at least half-convinced me that people didn't really want tablet computers at all, until Apple got it right and then, of course, this is what we wanted all along, wasn't it?

Similarly, Bill Gates has been talking about the importance of spoken interfaces for years, and it always sounded idiotic to me coming from him, primarily because however Microsoft did it was sure to suck. Seems like a better idea now though.

And wow, the return of AI. I scratched the surface of this a bit when I was doing some Semantic Web research and wow, it made it crystal clear how little AI contributes to our computing experiences today, despite the CPU cycles at our disposal. And jeez, rank and file programmers just crap their pants if they have to start thinking about AI concepts. They essentially go on strike as a class. If Siri is as smart as she looks on the commericals, it could finally start changing people's expectations about the intelligence of their personal computers.

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