08
Feb
10

merging the digital and physical

There is a lot of focus lately on changing how we interact with machines. The iphone and ipad are prime examples. There is just something so sexy about the interface; how it responds to our natural motions rather than the cramped and mechanistic motions of typing.

This video is an unbelievable demonstration of where this technology is going. But also, as this inventor, Pranav Mistry notes, there are philosophical implications. As he puts it, new interface technology will preserve our humanity; we won’t be merely one type of machine manipulating another. Rather, we will take our technological world with us.

On the one hand, I agree. When we look out at the world from the perspective of our internal experience, the world presents itself as filled with a rich number of possibilities, values, and reasons. Computing while preserving this perspective would be a victory. There are costs too. One would be that as we cast our digital net over wider and wider parts of the world, we risk eliminating the beauty and spontaneity of nature. It’s funny because personally, I don’t really care about nature. I don’t have a pet and I don’t take walks outside to enjoy the view (then again I live in Boston). However, if we are projecting our human world onto the natural world, then we risk swallowing up the immovable bits of nature into the mere flow of our desires and interests. As I’ve said in this blog many times before, human excellence sometimes needs collision and dissonance to reveal itself. If the world is just a canvas for us to paint on, then it loses its ability to resist our strivings and to symbolize our limitations.

No doubt there is much more to be said on this issue and my position is not fixed.

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