A unicycle for the mind
Back when you still needed to convince people to buy a computer, Steve Jobs loved to say Apple made “bicycles for the mind”, amplifying our output to new heights. Of course he was right — with computers, human accomplishment has scaled dramatically.
But what if he was wrong? Today’s computers aren’t bicycles for our minds, they’re just accelerators for our fingers. A spreadsheet or a word processor or a programming language is just a scaled-up abacus. To go further, we need software to meet us closer to where the magic happens — our creativity.
Think of robots in movies. HAL 9000, JARVIS, Baymax. Every one of them can carry on a proper, relatable conversation. They can reason and interpret emotional behaviour. Perhaps this is just because the screenwriter needs to create drama? Well, yes. How else do you think creativity works?
“Drama” is a name for human interaction, between characters with agency, negotiating situations where they face choices about what to say and do. Our software systems are completely absent from this fundamental aspect of human life.
Someday we will build software that can model humans as they really are. These systems will have agency and be able to navigate human society to accomplish goals on our behalf. They will be a new kind of superpower. I believe this kind of system is destined to become the dominant mode of human-computer interaction.