Winograd on The Future

September 29th, 2002

gramophoneHuman Computer Interaction audio:
winograd_future.mp3 – 25 minutes, 7 Mb. Synthesized speech for your MP3 player.
Original text here.

In this thoughtful essay, “From Computing Machinery to Interaction Design,” published in Beyond Calculation: The Next Fifty Years of Computing (1997), Stanford Human-Computer Interaction professor Terry Winograd considers how computers and interfaces might evolve over the next 50 years.

Summary: Winograd foresees three key trends in this evolution:

  • From computation to communication. “There will always be a need for machinery and a need for software that runs on the machinery, but as the industry matures, these dimensions will take on the character of commodities, while the industry-creating innovations will be in what the hardware and software allow us to communicate.”
  • From machinery to habitat. “In designing new systems and applications, we are not simply providing better tools for working with objects in a previously existing world. We are creating new worlds. Computer systems and software are becoming media for the creation of virtualities: the worlds in which users of the software perceive, act, and respond to experiences.”
  • From aliens to agents. An older view of computing’s future — that in which computers evolve to become independent, alien beings — has been supplanted by a view of computers as tools that supplement [and perhaps merge with?] human knowledge.

    Many have envisioned a future populated by intelligent, even sentient computer-beings, created by us but independent of us. Winograd says this perspective is based on the false assumption that if we create machines capable of higher and higher levels of pure data-processing power, eventually all that number-crunching will somehow add up to artificial intelligence (AI).

    “…the [early] mainstream AI effort rested on a view of human intelligence and action that implicitly assumed that all of intelligence could be produced by mechanisms that were inherently like the conscious logical manipulation of facts represented in language… what appeared to be inevitable trends were based on misconceptions about intellectual foundations.”

    “The biggest advances will come not from doing more and bigger and faster of what we are already doing, but from finding new metaphors, new starting points… There are ways to open up a clearing in which new possibilities can be glimpsed, even if their full potential cannot [yet] be known.”

  • One Response to “Winograd on The Future”

    1. comment number 1 by: Dav

      Good god, I can’t listen to 25 minutes of that voice.