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The Emotional Machine and You

Continuing on the topic of affective computing, I’ve cross-posted a piece at Psychology Today and on my World Future blog. “The Emotional Machine and You” examines the issues we may face when dealing with a technology that can read, act upon and manipulate our most basic human emotions. Such devices could
become capable of eliciting responses that lead to emotional bonding without any hope of reciprocation. Such a “relationship” would leave us open to easy manipulation — whether for commercial, political or other types of gain. How do we deal with such a threat without excising our most human traits?

Affective Computing and the Future of Marketing

My new article “How Your Computer Will Read You Like A Book – And Then Sell You Stuff” is up at Fast Company’s Futurist Forum. In it, I talk about ‘affective computing‘ – systems that read, interpret and even simulate human emotion. This is going to change our relationship with technology in ways you’ve probably never imagined. To my mind, one of its more interesting applications will be in the field of marketing. As human beings, we communicate volumes of information to each other via nonverbal cues – facial expressions, posture, gestures, gait. Yet for the most part, these have been inaccessible to computers. Until now. Imagine what will happen to marketing when your response
can be instantly, accurately interpreted, allowing ads to be altered on the fly, targeting you as never before? Get ready for a Brave New Shopping Experience.

The Naked Future (Review)

“The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move?” by futurist and science writer, Patrick Tucker, comes out this week and I highly recommend it. As long-time deputy editor of The Futurist magazine and director of communications for the World Future Society, Tucker has many great insights about the world Big Data is rapidly creating around us. In my recent review of ‘Naked Future’, I’ve tried to convey the depth and breadth covered in this very readable book. Read it today so you can know more about the world tomorrow.

The Futurist Best of 2013

I’m pleased to see my recent cover story, “Connecting with Our Connected World” has been included in THE FUTURIST Magazine’s Best Stories of 2013. There are lots of great articles in this year’s issues and I highly recommend reading all of them if you’re at all interested in the future. Better still, consider becoming a member of the World Future Society so you can read about tomorrow’s world all year around.

 

The Internet of Things at Ada’s Technical Books

I recently had the opportunity to speak about our connected world and the Internet of Things at Ada’s Technical Books in Seattle. Ada’s has just moved into a terrific new location on Capitol Hill and I got to be their inaugural speaker. I want to thank Danielle, Alex and all the wonderful people at the store, as well as everyone who came out to listen, for making it a great success.

 

Connect to the Future


“Connecting with Our Connected World” is my latest article and explores the coming era of the Internet of Things. It’s also the lead article for The Futurist magazine – my third cover story for them, which obviously I’m pleased about. While much has been written about IoT – or the Internet of Things – in recent years, this article takes a somewhat different tack.

We’re creating a world in which evermore aspects of our natural and man-made environments are becoming interconnected, capable of communicating with human operators as well as with each other. This will allow objects to keep us appraised of everything from their precise location to handling their own restocking and servicing and so much more.

However, there is a darker side to all this. For instance, issues of personal privacy and self-determism, not to mention some less well-behaved aspects of the technology:

“Once a system reaches a particular threshold of complexity, we can no longer be certain about specific cause-and-effect relationships; rather, we must think in terms of probabilities. Instead of being 100% certain that A will lead to B, we might assign a likelihood of, say, 99.98%.

For some events, this probabilistic approach works fine, but for others it could be disastrous: Power plants, automated weapons systems, and freeways full of self-driving cars all could experience catastrophes if operating on erroneous information. So these and other systems will need to be designed with greater safeguards and redundancies than they have today.”

My point is we’re at a stage in our relationship with our technology when we’ll need to start thinking in more and more nondeterministic ways. But in many respects, isn’t this how a great deal of our world has always been? So fortunately, we have lots of practice.

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