Being human

April 14, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Here’s some stuff to share with you as I’ve been researching into future world scenarios. I found a report called Being Human:Human-Computer Interaction in the Year 2020. Microsoft facilitated a meeting of geeky IT people, social scientists and so on in Spain last year and they’ve just released the report of the findings from the get-together. The talk-fest explored:

The question persists and indeed
grows whether the computer will make
it easier or harder for human beings to
know who they really are, to identify
their real problems, to respond more
fully to beauty, to place adequate value
on life, and to make their world safer
than it now is.
Norman Cousins – The Poet and the Computer, 1966

The mouse and the keyboard will probably be archaic relics replaced by tablet computers with stylus-based interaction and special pens with cameras that will digitally capture writing and markings. Minority Report style multi-touch surfaces that will enable interaction with hands and fingertips will be ubiquitous. And so we’ll be able to share a single interface and gather around it manipulating multiple touch points.

We will be co-habiting with robots who will pick up objects and cook dinner or clean as they continually roam the house. The elderly and children might have pet robots for companionship and play. We will always “be on” (thought that happened now what with social networks, twittering and so on). Social grooming, where friends and families gather and connect, will be at increased speed, with the downside that we will be expected to rapidly respond and we could unintentionally pass on our personal information at the expense of our privacy.

We will need to truly understand what it means to be human and what human values are so that we remain in control. Many interesting questions were explored:

  • Will the embedding of bio-sensing devices be acceptable only for cases of extreme frailty or illness or for other purposes too?
  • Should the bodily functions of people be allowed to be monitored without their awareness or permission?
  • How should we access and control information from intimate, embodied devices?
  • Is technology to be blamed for accidents and disasters or are designers and developers held responsible?
  • As society grows ever dependent on technology and the interaction underpinning this, who is accountable?
  • What are the implications for society of having clever computers reasoning and acting on our behalf?
  • What is the role of government and legislation in shaping the acceptable behaviour of digital crowds?
  • What are the legal implications of a growing digital footprint that maintains a record of our present and past?

Now, these are really fascinating questions, particularly the last three for me. There’s fascinating detail in the report, so go off and download it from the Microsoft site and tell me what you think.


Entry filed under: Human-computer interaction, Technology, Useful resources.

Death by blogging How curious!

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