Using Meaning as Metaphor for Computer Technology Development

October 5, 2007

For each age of development there is a corresponding question and answer. The synergy between asking the question and desiring the answer, drives the development on both sides of the pair.

  1. What do computers mean to numbers? Math calculators.
  2. What do computers mean to businesses? Financial calculators.
  3. What do computers mean to individuals? Desktop publishing.
  4. What do computers mean to other computers? Internet.
  5. What do computers mean to society? Social networks.

What is the question that will precede the age of social networks? In these steps we see the originally large computer scale down, as the quantity of computers increase. As the scale of computers approaches the nano-level we will see the ubiquity of computers accelerate. Imagine being networked to computers in your liver. Would it be harder to drink a lot? Would you just close the liver control panel? If you could see your heart rate graphed next to your respiration rate, would you get tense in the same way?

And what if people leave their bodies’ networks open for others to view? You could see a member of the opposite sex blush in a totally new way.

And what about the rest of our environment? You could see that your plants are drying up and your car will tell you the amount of pollution as you drive. We may become environmentalists by going beyond the networking ability of our born-with sensory mechanisms. Maybe the next question is, “What do computers mean to everything?”

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