Is humanity constructing its own synthetic sixth sense?

21 Dec 2009|Leigh Marinner

The biggest problem I have with trying to use the social web is how to filter the massive realtime stream. I have recently drastically cut the number of people I follow on Twitter because I couldn’t filter out enough junk to make it worth spending time on Twitter. Robert Scoble may be a “friend” for his comments on technology, but since I don’t actually know him, I’m not interested in his comments on who is having a baby.

Edo Segal published an important guest blog in TechCrunch entitled “Beyond RealTime Search: The Dawning of Ambient Streams”. He is hypothesizing a vision of the future in which technology will be able to sort through the noise and clutter of the current social web and published information, to feed us the information we want when we want it. He points out that augmented reality apps are a small step toward that goal. But although AR is hot right now, it’s only a small step in the direction of having a technological sixth sense. William Gibson outlined some of the potential of jacking his consciousness into cyberspace in Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson did the same in Snow Crash. It’s exciting to be at the point where we can see how the SciFi vision actually could become reality- maybe without brain implants.

Edo defines ambient streams as information bubbling up in realtime, which seek us out, surround us, and inform us. Instead of typing into a search box, the information will appear to us in an ambient way on a range of devices. The important point he makes is that we don’t yet have the right metaphors for suggesting the desired user experience. He is proposing a metaphor of a synthetic sixth sense. I don’t think that it quite the right metaphor yet, but it captures the aspect of getting what you want without having to spend too much energy searching for it.

It also occurs to me that this sixth sense could be useful as we age and have to work harder to remember words or connections. Great monetary potential.

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