Onstage at TED2014, Charlie Rose interviews Google CEO Larry Page about his far-off vision for the company. It includes aerial bikeways and internet balloons ... and then it gets even more interesting, as Page talks through the company's recent acquisition of Deep Mind, an AI that is learning some surprising things.
If you have any doubt that the hashtag is a frighteningly powerful tool in our modern vocabulary, imagine a person you care about texting you that song's title line out of the blue: "You're beautiful." Now think of the same person texting, "You're #beautiful." The second one is jokey, ironic, distant—and hey, maybe that's what that person was going for. But it also hammers home that point that the internet too often asserts: You're not as original as you once thought. "Beautiful" is analog, unquantifiable, one-in-a-million. #Beautiful, on the other hand, is crowded terrain. Ten more people have just tweeted about something or someone #beautiful since you started reading this sentence.
As more and more of our daily interactions become text-based—people preferring texting to phone calls, workplaces that rely heavily email and instant messaging—we're developing ways to stretch our written language so it can communicate more nuance, so we can tell people what we mean without accidentally leading them on or pissing them off. Periods have becomemore forceful, commas less essential, and over the last few years, the hashtag has morphed into something resembling the fabled sarcasm font—the official keystroke of irony. Putting a hashtag in front of something you text, email, or IM to someone is a sly way of saying "I'm joking," or maybe more accurately, "I mean this and I don't at the same time."
Comfort-seeking missiles, we spend the most to minimize pain and maximize pleasure. When it comes to technologies, we mainly want to make things easy. Not to be bored. Oh, and maybe to look a bit younger.
Our will-to-comfort, combined with our technological powers, creates a stark possibility. If we’re not careful, our technological evolution will take us toward not a singularity but a sofalarity. That’s a future defined not by an evolution toward superintelligence but by the absence of discomforts.
The sofalarity (pictured memorably in the film “Wall-E”) is not inevitable either. But the prospect of it makes clear that, as a species, we need mechanisms to keep humanity on track. The technology industry, which does so much to define us, has a duty to cater to our more complete selves rather than just our narrow interests. It has both the opportunity and the means to reach for something higher. And, as consumers, we should remember that our collective demands drive our destiny as a species, and define the posthuman condition.
Entertainment Weekly's On The Books section points us to this gem:
Don’t you wish that Neil Gaiman was your kooky uncle? He would sneak you into the circus and you’d get to hold the Biggest Amazonian Python That Ever Lived (whose name is Lucille). He’d help you put frogs in your sister’s bathtub. He’d keep secrets for you, like that time that you accidentally buried your dad’s favorite watch in the park. He would agree that pirate treasure is only good if it’s buried. To help you cement the fantasy that Gaiman is your favorite uncle, here he is reading Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham.
In the age of social media, when cell phones come with camera lenses optimized for selfies, that last question gets asked regularly. So I am going to answer it, once and for all: No. There is no such thing as TMI on the Internet. We are living in a post-TMI age, and everyone needs to deal with it. Preferably by using the “unfollow” button.
There is such a thing as too much information for you. There is such a thing as information the speaker will later regret. But if an audience is willingly and pleasurably consuming the information, then by definition, that is the right amount of information for them. Assuming the information in question is yours to share — your life, your ideas, your stories, your pictures, your theories about elf genealogy in Lord of the Rings — you cannot share too much of it. There are no captive audiences on the Internet. Whereas discussing your sex life at the Thanksgiving dinner table may be TMI for Grandma, discussing your sex life online does not necessitate Grandma’s participation. If you follow someone on Twitter and you find that her tweets are too much for you, then you may unfollow her. If you continually recoil at TMI, it's because you lack the willpower to stop consuming (or foresight to avoid) the information in question. That’s your fault.