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Loic Le Meur’s vision of the future of life in 2030 reminded me of a story I wrote for a contest issued by IBM in 1995 in the Netherlands. The subject: Scenario: Computergebruik in 2025 (Scenario: Using the Computer in 2025).

This story discusses augmented reality, crowdsourced software, software mass customization, an “app store” with government regulation, hologramic hardware, faster than light communication and Internet search that you have to pay for if you want to actually get good results.

There is no excuse for IBM. With that crowdsourcing campaign they had all the info needed to beat Google at Glass, Apple at the App Store and pretty much everyone else ☺ Here is my original story that I submitted in 1995.

Title: How to Make History in 2025
(c) 1995 Peter Bruinsma

A poised voice woke him up. “Leslie, it’s 900 hours. Today is the deadline for your paper.” At hearing his name, Leslie already sat up straight in his bed. Is it that day already? Without getting dressed, Leslie walked up to the catchall to put on his ARGs and walked to the bathroom, forgetting his fingernails. He just upgraded his fingernails so he could get a higher resolution. Before, he kept misplacing things and he had problems writing, so he had to move his hands real gently. The set he got with version LJA164 was a vast improvement but he keeps forgetting to put them on first thing in the morning. Oh well, he would switch to voice then! He hated voice, because it was much easier to grab things than to call them by name. Maybe they would solve that in the next version. He had already sent a message to the support dobot and received an Auto Reply that something would be done about it. The upgrade generating dobot was moderately efficient. It would usually send an upgrade within 12 hours and usually none of his peripherals would complain. They switched to mass customization few years ago, so they could now provide an ARGOS (ARGs Operating System) satisfying any user’s needs, hence the version name LJA164: Leslie Jackson build 164. Each user basically has a different version of ARGOS. A friend of his was already past build 1000; he’s a real support hazard! Sometimes his ERs (Enhancement Requests) take three iterations before the dobot even accepts one. Everybody makes fun of him.

In front of him were a few things floating in the air. These were peripherals, which could be created or destroyed at any time and were useful for most automated tasks, such as finding information, discarding junk mail, or automatically installing the new version of ARGOS that come in via mail. You could make them look like anything, but Leslie likes to choose the default metaphors. They are cheap, perhaps $0.001 per lifecycle, whereas the ones you get from various other sources can be as much as $0.10 per lifecycle, and that just for esthetics! His friend made some and he’s aggregating about $25,000 a month, on metaphors alone. But there are so many metaphors out there that it’s almost impossible for most people to publish one that becomes popular. Leslie is just an ordinary user and hardly ever propagates (publishes) his peripherals outside his groups of OSI (Others with Similar Interests: global AR groups one becomes a member of via automated knobot classification).

Anyway, in full color, at a little less than arm distance was a globe, about an inch in diameter, rotating around it’s axis with a little white sphere zooming around it erratically at about 15 revolutions per second. This is one of Leslie’s knobots, a program traversing the searchable knowledge space accross the earth for information. When it is done, it should stop spinning and the white sphere should be flashing at his coordinates. Leslie wonders why it’s still spinning. “There’s got to be something out there about ‘Conjectural Restoration of Lost Works of Antiquity’ ”. He he has even relaxed the constraints to include two levels of Isomorphism and a Return Home at 10 Hits. Maybe he had made a mistake, but Tolerance was set at Medium, so 90% of his mistakes should be corrected. “Well, maybe by the time I get my nails on and get dressed it will be done. I don’t want to talk to it anyway”, Leslie is thinking. Before taking the ARGs off, Leslie changes the peripheral to be Audible, so it warns him with a jingle when the knobot returns Home. “Research Project Sound ON”, Leslie says. “Confirmed” his ARGs respond. He’s got to change that voice. He’s had this one for a week now, and the intonation peeved him to no end. The last one was worse yet. It had a weird bug that if you had the Sound and Snooze properties on at the same time, it would stutter. Imagine, sending a Voice peripheral to a speech pathologist dobot! Maybe in the year 2100. Leslie chuckles.

At the breakfast table, Leslie already has his ARGs back on. Noone would have imagined that by the year 2025 95% of one’s waking hours would be spent witch such a silly looking pair of glasses on. They make one look like an alien with those two big hemispherical transparent eyes. Some people even sleep with them. They have told a peripheral to generate audible gamma waves and lucid resonating color patterns. This way they cope with stress and fall into a trance within 10 minutes. Noone knows the long term effects of this type of use, and peripherals like these haven’t been approved by the FPA (Federal Peripheral Administration). But the thing is easier to make than it is to send a knobot, so a lot of people have one. But Leslie likes the conventional uses of his ARGs better.

Augmented Reality Glasses were really an extension of a system designed in the 1990’s, called Virtual Reality. With Virtual Reality goggles, one could enter an incredibly primitive computer generated world made of jaggy polygons and limited colors, basically good for games and nothing else. It was soon classified as a drug and one could only enter it on prescription or for limited time for research purposes only. A lot of homebrew versions were made, but one risked severe penalties when found in posession of such a system. Soon, a new type of virtual reality system was developed, one which allowed one to stay in touch with the actual reality by keeping it in sight. Using transparent display technology, computer generated images could be displayed as if they were floating in front of you, overlayed, as it were, on top of actual reality. (Ironically, this system was not classified as a drug, even though one could enter a dark room and have super VR the way people dreamed of in the 90’s!) The first AR systems were inadequate, because computer generated objects would never stay put and would thus float anywhere you moved your head. When advanced Head Tracking systems were developed, based on a global satellite navigation system, you could move your head, and the objects would stay in place. They wouldn’t even jitter. Computer generated objects became static and dependable, just like real physical objects. You could create something one day, put it somewhere, come back to it the next day and it would still be there. Of course, they weren’t static in the sense that you couldn’t move them, mold them or destroy them! They were as flexible as one could wish.

Thus, Augmented Reality, in its mature stage, added a virtual integrated layer to the physical reality and both could be viewed simultaneously. It is so advanced, nowadays, that it can even interact with AR enabled physical objects, meaning, physical objects that have embedded hybrid systems in them, which allows one to query them for their position, their physical properties, their manufacturer, their owner and many other things. This way one can add personal features to ordninary things, like I did last. I have a mirror with enabled AR that you can program so that it recognizes who is looking in it (providing you are wearing your fingernails) and then it says “Goodmoring” if it is morning, and then the person’s name. Really just a gadget. So, I made a peripheral which actiavates itself when I look at the mirror, and subsequently renders hair on my scalp. When I approach the mirror, the mirror identifies me by my fingernails. It then says “Good Morning, Leslie” which triggers the hair rendering peripheral in my ARGs. It queries the position property of the mirror, for which it knows the AR ID, and calculates the position in virtual space where it should render my hair, so that it looks genuine. This took me about 15 minutes to make using the standard peripheral toolbox. I can even use the same procedure and make my hair public. Anyone who approaches me will be identified by their finernails. If I want them to see me with hair, I put them on the permissions list, and their ARGs will automatically render my hair using remote peripheral access. This all sounds rather complex, but there are a lot of peripherals available that do this kind of thing, some written by ordinary people like me, and some rather more advanced written by people who are commercially motivated, like my friend. I’d better not tell you some of the things he created because you might be shocked at the possiblities.

So, this ‘Generation 5 VR’ has been labeled Augmented Reality, and the special glasses with which to enable this reality are Augmented Reality Glasses, or ARGs for short. The fingernails are really essential, because they contain identification properties and enable Relative Hand Tracking of the ARGs (relative to the head, i.e.). This allows the ARGs to determine the position of the hands which is useful for grabbing, writing, gesturing, moving, destroying, etc. Writing for example, is now done using a stylus on any surface, or even on no surface at all with no stylus at all! Simply the writing movement of the fingers will create a record. You will not even have to tell the ARGs that you are writing, because it will recognize the writing motions of your fingers. The record generated is an INK record. This is not an acronym, for once, but a term that stems from a datatype that was designed in the 90’s and is short for nothing less but ‘ink’.

The earth has stopped spinning. 10 Hits with a relevance index of 100(3), 70(2), 50(2) and 10(3) percent respectively. Not that good, but considering a hit with a relevance index of 100 costs about $1, it’s best to design narrow queries. If all knowledge servers had Metaphoric Addressing (MA), the relevance indices would be nearly 100 for all hits, unless it really is a bogus query. Some servers are still using Content Addressing , because the hardware costs of MA are prohibitive. The cost of MA is a million times that of CA. Memory addresses don’t exist anymore. Every memory ‘cell’ is connected to every other memory ‘cell’, and each has in turn got its own memory. It’s hologramic, in a sense, and not really memory anymore, but a processor of its own kind. Too intricate to deal with in detail. It was difficult enough to accept the paradigm where the data are the program and the software is the hardware. Where nothing can be deleted, only integrated. Where data are never wrong, only insignificant. When communication used to be as slow as light, it was impossible to imagine such a system, except by members of the Superluminal Communications Society. Now the task is for the Society of Computational Alphysicists (a cheap wordplay on ‘alchemists’ that stuck) to reduce the cost of MA hardware by using picotechnology. Someday, MA hardware will be the size of a brick of Lego and will cost as much. Funny, how we will soon be using stack computers again! Sometimes the irony is as thick as a human hair, on a femtoscale.

I’m drifting. I better modify the query and get going on the project. While my knobot travels, I will test my new Mumbo Jumble peripheral. It sort of knows what I know because it tracks what I read and contextualizes this with my Research Project query results. I call it Mumbo Jumble, because sometimes that’s all it produces, but better than half the time, half the work of creating a readable text is done in less than a second. However, there is something romantic about still having to do actual creative thinking part inside of your head. But to do actual conjectural restoration of lost works of antiquity, it would take a million brains a thousand years to recreate the contents of the library of Alexandria. I’m not that ambitious. But when I have that done, I will call it Fermat’s Dream, since this stuff would have been his pastime if he were alive today. After that, I will see if I can create some books that never got a chance to be written. Conjectural Creation of Conjectural Works of the Past. I won’t bore you with what I want to do after that, namely, Conjectural Restoration of the Past: writing history that never became history because it was never even recorded in the past. But it will be computed in the future! Too bad my ARGs don’t have MA. I could tell you who killed JFK by now.