In Philip pullman’s Golden compass every human being is accompanied by a daemon. Daemon is a manifestation of a person's soul & it is impossible to separate it from the person. However Lyra’s mother, Mrs. Coulter manages to invent a process by which the separation can be accomplished. But as soon as the process is completed the Daemon dies/ evaporates with an agonizing poof & the person/child looses his personality becoming an emotion deprived zombie.
I was reading this article in business week comparing Siri & Android’s ice cream sandwich. Not only am i blown away by the intelligence in both systems - Siri being the better option (i am sure android will catch up soon) but am fascinated by how far we have come since the days of Dragon naturally speaking & more recent windows speech recognition. I have been a text to speech(& v.v.) enthusiast for a long time. What drove me away from these products was the back breaking effort involved in training the software and following an almost algorithmic pattern of speech. It felt like writing a program - declare this, then create a method, then do this - how boring!
I believe that interactions between technology and humans should be driven by natural conversation gestures such as speech, touch & facial expressions.
Fast forward to today. Here’s a snippet from Siri’s conversation:
Me: What’s the best mobile phone?
Siri: The one you’re holding.
Me: What’s your favorite color?
Siri: My favorite color is … well, I don’t know how to say it in your language. It’s sort of greenish, but with more dimensions.
Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Siri: I try to be satisfied with what I have, Kevin.
Me: What do you look like?
Siri: Does my appearance matter to you, Kevin?
Smart isn’t it
This adds the “human connection” dimension missing from earlier attempts at using speech as an input mechanism.
Walk into a pub and you are sure to find a table, where all occupants are engrossed in their cell phones. The public in pub is losing its meaning, as most connections & interactions are happening remotely. I hope this doesn't become the de-facto communication medium, but we are definitely moving towards a system where our phone based personal assistants evolve to understand us much better than other humans.
The question is will they become our Daemons? Being constantly catered to and advised by our personal assistants will we ever want to part from them? Is this addiction or misdirected compassion? Where do we draw the line?