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Reinventing Your Memory

// Posted by on 01/24/2013 (11:50 AM)

Looking at digital media and social networking today, it seems like human memory is almost unnecessary at times. Facebook remembers what day and year every photo was taken, and can usually even tell you where you were at the time.… Read more

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Looking at digital media and social networking today, it seems like human memory is almost unnecessary at times. Facebook remembers what day and year every photo was taken, and can usually even tell you where you were at the time. iPhones and other camera-phones have replaced (in many cases) the conventional disposable or digital camera, making it easier to document every moment. The need for post-its feels like its even decreasing, since now you can just take a picture to remember. With the technological advances, many human memories are accompanied by a picture, video, text message, or email to ensure you do not forget them. Forget what time you have a meeting next week? Not to worry, your phone will probably send you a reminder to make sure you don’t have to do any remembering (assuming you utilize your calendar function). “A Sense of Place,” an article in the February issue of Wired magazine, outlines the differences between retrospective and prospective memory. Retrospective memory deals more with the memorization of facts from the past, such as a peers names or hometowns. Prospective memory is trickier because it represents tasks, as exemplified by the calendar reminders that are necessary for some people to avoid slip-ups. Google is now searching for a way to further aid people in remembering the tasks that always seem to slip away until its too late. The tools that exist now are hardly perfect, based on GPS data that is not always accurate enough. The article “A Sense of Place” mentions that there is hope for a system that can remind you to remember your keys or have a “floating message” waiting outside the office telling you to go to the supermarket.

The idea of this seems somewhat surreal; in the way that conventional responsibility would be altered. If you forgot a meeting because there was no reminder, would it be your fault or the program’s fault? I would go as far as to say it almost adds another level of accountability whereby you have to ensure the system is running at 100% all the time. Unless someone reveals that the human memory is physically overextended, impairing ones ability to remember more, I think conventional memory and sticky notes is still the best method for making it anywhere.


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Phase One: Man-Computer Symbiosis

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (11:23 PM)

I am exploring  J.C.R. Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis theory, the implications it had when Licklider published his 1960 article, where we stand now in our relation to technology, and based on research whether or not society seems to be fulfilling this… Read more

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I am exploring  J.C.R. Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis theory, the implications it had when Licklider published his 1960 article, where we stand now in our relation to technology, and based on research whether or not society seems to be fulfilling this theory.  Licklider’s theory states that “man-computer symbiosis is a development in cooperative interaction between men and electronic computers. It will involve very close coupling between the human and the electronic members of the partnership.”

The research questions I started with were; what is the historical significance of Licklider’s theory?  What technological advances are fulfilling this theory? How close is this to happening as Licklider imagined it? Is Man-Computer symbiosis a good thing for humans?

The natural roadblock to this is the fact that my project is capable of going in a lot of different directions.  So it was a little difficult to narrow down what I wanted to focus on.  When I was exploring another theory over the course of the semester, whose name escapes me, I was looking around on youtube for applicable videos. I found what I need but as I read through the comments I came across a recommendation for the book Feed.  It was described as an example of where our digital age is taking us. Because I had an oceans worth of information I could explore I started with Feed, I knew it would apply in some way and might help me to narrow down my topic.(The following video discusses Feed briefly but portrays the essence of the book nicely.)

I was also told of a TED talk by my suite mates that described a new way of using computers.  Seeing potential for this to apply to my project I investigated.

With Mistry’s Sixth Sense Technology, Feed, and Licklider’s theory I figured out how to narrow my project. I initially planned on researching Sixth Sense Technology but decided I wanted to expand that and explore prosthetics as well.  This is where my classmates come in.  I picked four pieces of technology; the google goggles, sixth sense technology, i-Limb, and Proto 2 by DARPA. I asked them for an explanation of what the technology is and does? How does it embody Licklider’s theory? What kind of innovation can you see happening that would  further exemplify Man-Computer Symbiosis? I also found a senior thesis from MIT titled Pilot: A Step Towards Man-Computer Symbiosis that I asked for feedback on as well.

For the second half of the project I intend to learn more about the technology I have chosen and to finish Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky so that I can hypothesize the effects of Man-Computer Symbiosis on our society. Having read Feed it will be hard to keep that from giving me a bias however, Shirky should help counter that.  In general, the project hasn’t changed much in theory, it was just difficult to put into reality.

 


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The Googles

// Posted by on 02/24/2012 (12:35 AM)

Yesterday the New York Times published this article titled, “Behind the Google Glasses, Virtual Reality”. The article discusses google’s latest technology, thick rimmed sunglasses which will project information, entertainment, and advertisements onto the lenses. They may look something like… Read more

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Yesterday the New York Times published this article titled, “Behind the Google Glasses, Virtual Reality”. The article discusses google’s latest technology, thick rimmed sunglasses which will project information, entertainment, and advertisements onto the lenses. They may look something like this:

Putting aside the fact that people will look absolutely ridiculous as they bobble around the street in these because they’re paying attention to where they are walking, to me this invention is the perfect representation of Mark Mcluhan and Bernard Stiegler’s ideas. Essentially Mark Mcluhan theorized that new media functions as an extension of ourselves, that technology is literally an addition to the human body and its capabilities. And similarly, Stiegler proposed that human evolution has always been tied to technology. Through cognitive distribution, we rely on technology to increase our abilities and help us develop. An example of cognitive distribution would be how people no longer remember telephone numbers because their phones do it for them. And the more information you can distribute the more information you can consume. Unless you are the word memory champion or spend hours everyday memorizing friends’ phone numbers, it is safe to assume that your phone allows you to store a much larger quantity of numbers than your brain.

The google’s are also proposing a type of cognitive distribution which the article explicitly discusses. One example is that the glasses “could remind a wearer of when and how he met the vaguely familiar person standing in front of him at a party”. So now you don’t even need to remember acquaintances, the googles will do it for you.

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My initial opinion is that the concept of the googles is ridiculous. We already stare at our phones and text while we walk, frequently causing us to bump into things or ignore the people around us. Do we really require such instant gratification that we need information constantly available barely centimeters away from our eyes? But that thought gets me tangled up in another one of the theories of New Media which is that each time a new technology comes out, there are those who say we have gone to far. But then as time goes on, the invention becomes accepted and considered the norm. And then the next form of New Media is created and the cycle begins again.

So I think my opinion may be because conceptually, I am not progressing as quickly as the new media movement is. I just can’t help but wonder ( and I guess this is what other fellow nay-sayers have wondered as well), will there ever be a point where we actually have gone to far? That question just makes me think of this image from the Pixar film Wall-E where the humans are useless and they rely on technology for everything.

As a ponder the existence of a limit to technology, I have come to the conclusion that although I may never be receptive of all of the newest technology that comes out as soon as it comes out, I like technology which brings us up-to date information, which connects us to different networks of people, and which provides valuable aid in our lives (such as new medical technology for example. And I’m sure technology’s limit lies in a different place for a million different people but for me the limit is when technology takes away any of my basic functions as a human such as to love or to empathize.

Or another example is that there is a book called Born to Run where author Christopher McDougall talks about an African tribe which goes on weekly fifty mile runs. And everyone in the tribe goes including children and grandparents. The reason they can accomplish this is because our bodies are designed to run. They are utilizing a natural function of the human body, hence the title, “Born to Run”. So in a round about way, what I am saying is that if technology ever takes away my physical ability to run, (something my body is designed to do), like the fat people pictured above from Wall-E, then that is my limit. But maybe future generations will see it differently.


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