To: Frederick Pohl
From: Frode Hegland
Date: Undelivered, address unknown, written a long time ago...
-Albert, tell me about the size relationship between stars in the our galaxy and the world of the atoms...-
You wrote of the dialogue between the interface representation Albert who could appear as a holographic representation of Albert Einstein and an adventurer who often just wanted to learn. You presented the world with the perfect interface, one which required intelligent interaction from the user through intelligent questions but which spared the user the tedium of endless blind searches and the feeling of not having access to information.
The holographic Albert was much more than a dream interface. It was also a very sensible interface. Intelligent Software Agents discussed today are often thought of as delegates who will do work for you. Great, but so can even the dumbest assistant/secretary. Not that we all have access to one or even should have. Albert however, helped Robinette learn. Albert never presumed to learn for Robinette. That is the important distinction between different kinds of intelligent human computer interface visions.
We will probably always need a visual space where our ideas can fly around freely and interact with information. The intelligent human computer interface has to be a connection between our intellect. When the connection is severed, we are no longer being intellectually augmented. We are just order givers.
It's quite a while since I read, and lived, the 'Heechee Saga'. I was an artist at the time. Then I went through a stint as an advertising guy. My first Macintosh was named Albert. The environment Albert created for Robinette by dimming the lights and projecting a 3D galaxy which changed depending on Robinettes questions has never quite left me. The level of access, the dynamic representation and level of control is something I have always sought after. Do we necessarily need to speak to a holographic representation of a great man to be in such an environment? I resoundingly have to say no. What you gave me and the world was a philosophy and ideal for interactivity and access. How close to that are we in real life interfaces? Don't get me started! :)
I am negotiating with Apples ATG to come and work for them at some point. Talks are going very well but they have a hiring freeze at the moment. Would I, a non programmer, non engineer, non mathematician, ever think of even getting close to working at a research position trying to implement Albert's environment even 5 years ago? Not a chance, yet they are listening to me. I correspond with some people in the industry I hold in very high regard.
All because of a philosophy instilled in me that time Albert turned down the lights and took me on a ride through the cosmos. Thank you. The philosophy that has come out of trying to get to that point has been named the philosophy of The Liquid Information Environment. If you want you can come to the Liquid Information Environment Organization home page. Hey, you're its grand father!
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