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07.07.2002

The Future is Boring

Here is something that really irks me about Microsoft. They hire a boatload of amazing people to do research, including some geniuses at natural language processing, and yet their vision of what the Computer of Tomorrow will be remains stultifyingly dull. That is, when it isn't downright Orwellian.

For example, at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, we saw an impressive demo of some of the search and clustering technologies Microsoft has been developing, and then heard about how they will combine with Office to make your computer the perfect administrative assistant. It's a vision of the future à la the Jetsons - all new technology, same old society. Where the ne plus ultra of computer technology is organizing email, synchronizing your calendar, and being able to detect whether you are on the phone with someone, so that your screen can flash rather than ringing the email chime.

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When I hear someone misuse the phrase "beg the question" to mean "raise the question", I want to weep and hurl the cats at the wall. That is because the phrase has such a subtle and useful meaning when used correctly, and of course it will soon die out and be understood in its original sense only by unsmiling grammar Nazis in isolated remote communities, where the Internet does not reach. Please, gentle reader, visit the link and impress the ladies with the correct usage. If we all do our part, maybe we can save this one.

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