October 14, 2009
I've just spent 50 minutes of jetlagged insomnia in a hotel room in Madrid watching a 'fantasy documentary' made by the BBC in 1990.
I found the documentary, hosted in full on Google Video, via a tweet by @eskimon, which led me to a post on Russell's blog called Hyperland, which is also the name of the documentary.
Hyperland is a documentary film written by Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [but you knew that] and one of the great futurologists of our time [he is greatly missed]. He saw the future clearly, as though it was obvious, as though it had to happen.
The show starts with Adams' frustration with the passive, linear nature of television and, upon disposing of his set, he is approached by an intelligent software agent represented by Tom Baker [who was the second best Doctor Who].
The agent explains that he is an application, able to source information from anywhere and anywhen and then follow the hypertextual connections of every datum outwards to all the data in the world.
It's too brilliant for me to keep describing - it's a waste of time. Set aside 50 minutes and watch it.
And keep reminding yourself it was written 20 years ago - before the first web browser.
One of the bits I really loved was an exploration of a quote from Kurt Vonnegut:
“The fundamental idea is that stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper, and that the shape of a given society’s stories is at least as interesting as the shape of its pots or spearheads.”
The shape of society's stories right now could well be logos, but let's not get into that right now.
[Another bit I love is how much Adams hates the idea of talking fridges - the IP fridge is the great technological white elephant of pervasive computing.]
It covers World of Warcraft too, artificial realities, and points out that truly immersive interactive environments have an inevitable tendency to pull you out of the 'real world'
[at least until the one can be overlaid on the other - see Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge for a idea of what that looks like, a book I found out about because of a comment from my mate Wilsh].
As I'm sure is clear, the vision that Adams painted before any of you who aren't old enough to drink in the UK were born, is, well, here and right now.
The very context of my watching it is an example of what it's about.
The agent points out that intelligent hypertextuality likes to arrange meaningful coincidences, which is pretty much how I found out about it, and most other things, thanks to the human/computer hypertextual network I'm very fortunate to have found myself part of.
Coincidentally, I'm in Madrid to give a presentation about the disruption to linear passive content and communication that technology represents, and my speech opens with a quote by Douglas Adams.
I wonder if that's meaningful.