Putin has been recruiting an interesting posse of identities for his political party. A playboy model, an olympic wrestler, a tennis champ and a Hagrid proportioned boxer. It is unclear if he is forming a political party or attempting to form his own evil Fantastic Four. The stretchy tennis arms of Safin, the rock-fisted boxer Valuev, the token eye candy for the ladies Karelin and the girl with the powers of invisibility Kozhevnikova. Though to be honest the girl’s powers appear to be limited to only making her clothes invisible and not her actual physical self. Whilst these villainous intentions do not seem completely unreasonable for Putin, the other explanation is that perhaps he, like Sarah Palin and her husband, wishes to make a celebrity reality tv show. Putin’s version of “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!” would more than likely get more viewers than a show about the Palin’s sporting a title such as “So you think you can read”.
Susan Storm: “Any more bright ideas? Why don’t you strip down and have a hundred people stare at you!”, Fantastic Four (2005)
Putin and Palin aside, what I really wanted to share in this post was some interesting thoughts I was having the other day concerning good software design and it’s subtle link to the inevitable demise of the human race. Yes, that old chestnut. I was talking into an iPhone’s Siri system the other day, not my phone unfortunately, and asking it the usual things such as
What is the colour of Belgium?
Where can I buy a black market porpoise?
Why won’t my Japanese Fighting fish stop squeaking?
I don’t believe in you Siri. You are about as real as the Yeti, Jesus or Ringo Starr. Yeah you heard me Siri.
It reminded me of an article I had read recently about a couple of boffins who had worked out how Apple’s Knight Rider inspired Siri technology worked. In a nutshell the phone recognizes and captures the spoken phrase, sends it as a computer friendly format to a remote server, allowing for the relevant response to be determined and then sent back and presented to the phone user. This seems like a reasonable design as it allows the Turing machine style Siri servers to be independent of the specific devices allowing Apple to leverage this technology across multiple different applications at some later point. One can easily imagine in the near future having natural language conversations with much of the electronic gadgetry that we continue to embrace and invite into our everyday lives such as televisions, fridges and sad lifelike Japanese lady robots.
“What do mean just hold onto your little robotic hand real tight and ignore the faint smell of gas? Oh, I feel a little dizzy…”
This approach of decoupling parts of a software based system, or the separation of concerns, is not new and many well established patterns exist and are well utilized in the software development community already. For example there is the popular Model-View-Controller pattern which proposes an approach which allows the final presentation of the information and interactions to be created quite independently from the actual implementation of the underlying business model and data. To bring this back to my original point, as I was talking to Siri and imagining the system in action behind the scenes, an amusing realization decided to make an appearance in my thoughts. We are slowly, under the guise of good design principles, making human input optional from so many of our systems as more and more of our software gets produced decoupled from the pink neurotic fleshy thing at the front end more commonly referred to as people.
Modern software engineers draw upon their high school science project skills to create the natural user interfaces we have come to expect.
Now Siri is apparently Portuguese for crab which perhaps has some symbolism. Maybe that the human race came from the sea and ultimately something from the sea will come to claim us back again into it’s watery depths. Perhaps the simple message is that carrying the new overheating iPhones in our pockets will leave us with irritated and itchy crotches. Either way the very technology that we flash in front our jealous non iPhone owning friends will have the last laugh as we are distracted from the digital revolution happening right beneath our noses by irate and destructive birds launching themselves at lime toned swine. Now that I think about it, someone should really make a movie about machines becoming sentient and taking over the world…
I know what you are up to Siri.