- The Soft Machine
ForeverFuturistic Design, Inc
200 Pages; Print, $29.99
The term "hype cycle" is a branded data visualization used to represent the adoption of different technologies. It's a graphic and conceptual presentation of how consumers get into emergent technology with terms like "Technology's trigger" to "Peak of Inflated Expectations" to "Trough of Disillusionment" to "Slope of Enlightenment" and ending with "Plateau of Productivity" when the product is actually useful. With the rich amount of data they have access to, you realize that marketing and advertising data analytics have a lot more info about how we use technology than most nation states. We are in an era where software and design have raced far ahead of how we measure stuff like happiness or Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs because they are different kinds of literatures, different modes of engaging a digital narrative that inundate our every waking and sleeping moment in the twenty-first century.
There are equations for just about every choice we make onscreen, and one book that I think encapsulates this kind of transparency at the edge of this dizzying situation is Mike Pell's book The Age of Smart Information: How Artificial Intelligence and Spatial Computing Will Transform the We Communicate Forever. Long title, but hey—you get the point.
It's not every day that you get a sense of how much the world has changed in such a brief amount of time. We all know that even if you pay a small amount of time reading about technology, we are now living in a world where an informal law of unintended consequences holds sway, and everything changes at the speed of information. We know the incredible potential of everything from quantum computing, which uses complex physics of the smallest particles of the universe on the processes we use to derive information, to the more industrial scale issues of climate change and genetic engineering—one phenomena holds these things together: how humans use information to navigate the ephemeral terrains of a landscape made of consciousness as translated into code. Basically, the twenty-first century is all about pattern recognition.
Mike Pell has been clever at giving us a sense of the edge of what's going on in the rapidly evolving world of our data driven society because he was one of the principal designers of Adobe Acrobat. It's one of those core pieces of software [End Page 17] for editing text and images that have helped define the way many of us use everything from PDF's, GIF's, and the various and sundry things that make up documents. Pell's position in Smart Information is that we always have to think about the way design informs all aspects of contemporary thought. No interface stands alone. His previous book Envisioning Holograms (2017) dealt with how spatial perception and data overlap. In the aftermath of mega games like Pokémon Go or how Uber and scooters have revolutionized how we overlay data and cities, this kind of thing is extremely convenient, complex, and above all transforms how we look at the haptics of how data informs all aspects of how we dimensionalize text. We have been reading on the two-dimensional space of the printed page as an artifact of Gutenberg and his printing press since the mid fifteenth century. We all know how that went! But the major theme of Pell's newest book is that the dimensional aspect of text and the way we engage in a post William Gibson-esque milieu leads us directly to so many new possibilities for how we can think of information itself.
For Pell, we live in an era where artificial intelligence and deep neural machine learning networks convey to you everything from text correction on over to how Siri or Alexa recommend what you should listen to while you drive using Waze or Google Maps; we already are in a world where information has...