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The Sentient Office Is Coming

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the intelligent-stapler dept.

Technology 182

Roland Piquepaille writes "In this article, the Economist explains that "sentient computing systems are likely to be everywhere within five years -- listening and watching, and ready to anticipate their users' every need." "By adding sensors to today's computing and communications technology, sentient computing seeks to take account of a machine's environment in order to make it more responsive and useful. Sentient computing systems are always on, ubiquitously available, and can adapt to their users. In short, they seek to become real help-mates." ACM TechNews also wrote an analysis of sentient computing: "Challenges to sentient computing include the seamless integration of wireless networks, the spread of sensors throughout products and the environment, the accurate provision of location data, and the ability of sentient systems to merge vast volumes of widely disseminated data and customize its delivery for users. Other problems researchers will have to tackle include scalability, the development of cooperative file systems, and sentient applications' ability to find screens and network devices in close proximity to users." And of course, there are privacy concerns... Check this summary for additional details."

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FP in your mouth (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318185)

FP? no, not first post. Filthy Penis!


Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318232)

congrats to you my fellow troller....may you live long, prosper and troll many a ill contrived /. post by a FUCKTARD ed.....and goddamn the fucking stupid ass, blind mods...they are shit...nevermind their lame ass points, the power lies in the CLIT and the TROLL!!!!

Troll on brother...troll on!!! fight the evil doers...fuck them!!! TROLL ON!!!



Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318258)


Clippy writes.. (5, Funny)

FryGuy1013 (664126) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318190)

I now see you are attempting to hang yourself because of your crappy life (and I know it's crappy), would you like to:

* Help you write a suicide note
* Email your lawyer to set your main beneficiary to Microsoft
* Fax an order for another red swingline because someone stole it

Re:Clippy writes.. (0, Funny)

gfody (514448) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318212)

suicide note []

Re:Clippy writes.. (1)

thynk (653762) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318362)

Hi, it looks like you're jerking off again at work... shall I :

* - download some porn for you?
* - turn on the web cam you installed in the women's locker room?
* - alert you if your boss is coming to see you?

LOL, faggot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318254)

You paid money to make that stupid ass joke. you are teh GAY. slashdot subscribers are homos! maybe they should let subscribers have an hour to preview the articles so they can come up with funnier jokes.

the money earned from subscriptions pays for michael's, rob malda's, and timothy's condoms at their hot gay buttsex parties.

FP! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318191)

Hey, Hey! Ho, Ho! Goooatttsee izzexxxxx

YOU ARE THE FAILURE!!!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318211)

You fail it, bitchtits...fuck off and die.

ps, eat a dick.

at least post a goddamn goatse link if you are going to invoke that holy name, you FUCKTARD!!!!!!!!!!

At Last! (5, Funny)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318194)

I'm glad the Sentient Office is coming, since with all my extra hours and no overtime [] , I'll soon be downgraded to Inanimate Object!

For those who don't know... (3, Informative)

rob-fu (564277) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318195)

sentient ( P ) Pronunciation Key (snshnt, -sh-nt)
Having sense perception; conscious: "The living knew themselves just sentient puppets on God's stage" (T.E. Lawrence).
Experiencing sensation or feeling.

Yes, I had to look it up.

Re:For those who don't know... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318257)

If you had to look it up, then you didn't watch enough Star Trek: Next Generation and as such you have no business at Slashdot. :-)


Re:For those who don't know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318267)

If you had to look it up, then you didn't watch enough Star Trek: Next Generation and as such you have no business at Slashdot. :-)

yes, I enjoy vaginal sex with women and thus do not have time to watch Star Trek

Re:For those who don't know... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318282)

I too enjoy having vaginal sex with your Mom. Too bad your basement doesn't have a proper bed to fuck on, what with all your comic books and gay porn strewn about.

For Slashdot! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318198)

Maybe they should apply this to Slashdot. This site is getting kinda boring!

Re:For Slashdot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318272)

Maybe they should apply this to Slashdot. This site is getting kinda boring!

Kinda boring? Try extremely boring. This site jumped the shark long ago. Michael and Timothy are the reason why this site sucks cox.

fp bitches (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318201)

suck my me!! i love the trolls!! where are my no-fp brothers!!! come and eat of my cunt, it is life....suck and be full and live forever!!!!!

Proximity Sensoring Stuff... (4, Informative)

Justen (517232) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318202)

On the most basic level, some of these ideas exist in tangible forms today.

Salling Software's Clicker [] is a pretty cool piece of software that does some nifty remote control things with Bluetooth-enabled Sony Ericsson phones. But the really nifty stuff are its "proximity sensor" features. When it senses the phone leaves the computer's general area, it pauses iTunes; when you return, it resumes playing. It can also be AppleScript-enabled, letting you do any number of other proximity-to-computer related tasks.

Just a thought. (No, I don't work for Salling Software.)

Something like Minority Report's smart advertising based on a retina scan comes to mind. Basing this off of wireless phones, it seems very much like this idea might be widespread within a few years.

Interesting technology. That's all.


It is inevitable (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318203)

...but it will be hackers' and script-kiddies' paradise. Just think what you could do with all the audio i/o devices, cameras, location data, etc.

Re:It is inevitable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318437)

Quick. Call the ghostbusters.

Re:It is inevitable (1)

DaemonGem (557674) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318509)

This becomes all the more relevant, when you read "Cybernetic Samurai", in which the Artificial Sentience (Note: Not AI) pulls somewhat of a nasty prank on someone by videotaping a "lovemaking" session between a Company president and a call-girl, and then routed the image into a television screen in an airport in Tokyo. This is only a mild example of something that could actually happen.

In case you all are wondering what kind of crap it is I read, I thought it prudent to add that the AS did promise not to ever do something like that again. ;-).


Re:It is inevitable (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318547)

Like this [] , but on purpose...

Coming soon... (4, Funny)

CitizenJohnJohn (640701) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318204)

The sentient boss!

What more for a great office? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318206)

Head on over to Bill Kendrick's website and get the Virtual Kendrick [] .

'Tis a great companion for browsing the internet because if it segfaults then you may be near a MS Windows virus.

Screenshots here [] .

Yeah right. (1)

bgeer (543504) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318220)

You think spyware is bad now, just wait till Gator 8.0 Total Information Awareness Edition starts breaking into people's computers and automatically blackmailing hapless users with pictures of their "perusing" adult sites.

Friggin Great, I can't wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318224)

It's the long foretold coming of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.....

Everybody Grab you're bootstraps, we're headin to the Frogstar.....!!!!!

Re:Friggin Great, I can't wait... (1)

MROD (101561) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318325)

Well, you may laugh, but architects are thinking of building lifts which can go sideways as well as up and down. Soon they (the lifts) will be sculking in the basement with Genuine People Personalities(tm).

Douglas Adams was a visionary and a futurist, obviously.

Clippy the ......? or "Stop trying to help me!" (5, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318227)

I am not sure I want a bunch of Clippy's running around in my everyday world second guessing what I want to do. Rather, I would prefer technologies that can do what I want when I invoke them. For instance, standing in your kitchen talking to your SO about a vacation, you say, "computer, find me the best airfare and hotel rates in say, San Francisco for the weekend of the...." The computer would then list those for you. I don't want my fridge saying "it looks like you are out of milk, I therefore ordered 1gal of milk for you" when I am going out of town for a week.

Re:Clippy the ......? or "Stop trying to help me!" (1)

Maserati (8679) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318293)

The refrigerator would have noted the travel arrangements and adjusted its plans accordingly.

Sounds a lot like Project Starfire [] .

Re:Clippy the ......? or "Stop trying to help me!" (1)

MROD (101561) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318300)

Ah, so it would have ordered the gallon of milk to be couriered to your destination then, as that's obviously what you wanted. Isn't it?

Re:Clippy the ......? or "Stop trying to help me!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318321)

The refrigerator ordered the milk before it knew about the travel plans.

Clippy Robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318303)

You mean something that responds to a baseball bat.

Now what would be the insurance rating on that?

Re:Clippy the ......? or "Stop trying to help me!" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318393)

It's a matter of how you interface with computers. The important step is to give computers more senses than keyboard and mouse. The positive example you give isn't feasible without enhanced "awareness": To answer your question, the computer would likely have to know where you are. You don't want the answer broadcast to every room. If the answer takes some time, the computer would have to know that you have moved to a different room than the one where the question was asked. Some people would like their fridge to restock automatically, except when they tell it not to (either explicitly or implicitly by booking the vacation). Then it would certainly be nice to have a log of some sort, so you could ask the computer "What have you done today?" and it would give a list of things it has done automatically. A control freak however would still benefit from enhanced sensoric interfaces simply because it makes commanding the machine easier.

Re:Clippy the ......? or "Stop trying to help me!" (3, Interesting)

Zork the Almighty (599344) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318453)

My favorite feature in computer programs: dialog boxes which pop up and have a check box "don't show this ever again". If my fridge had a button "shut up and just be a fridge from now on", maybe I wouldn't mind.

Re:Clippy the ......? or "Stop trying to help me!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318601)

Yes but you know as well as I do that in the next upgrade, that setting will be "lost", and you'll start getting those dialogs again. Another upgrade will then disable that checkbox due to a "bug" and you'll never be able to shut it up.

SPAM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318233)

Someway and somehow this information will be harvested by SPAM'ers and used to annoy people.

We already have that..... (1, Funny)

StrifeCX (589172) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318234)

It's been around for a while. It's great! get at []

The future (5, Funny)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318237)

In the future [] , you will have giant wrench-eyes watching your every move. But you won't be moving. See, they've taken your keyboard and mouse away. In the future, you'll sit in a chair. And like it. You'll be watching commercials. That's it. Your sentient office will make sure of that.

Oh, and your boss will be a cell phone. See, he's yelling at you right now.

God, I hope they have drugs in the future.

Re:The future (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318394)

I wanted to rate this as insightful and funny but instead simply lament not having a 'disturbingly accurate' rating on /.

'nuff said.

p.s. i don't own a cell phone for just this reason.

Re:The future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318432)

Oh yeah, they'll have drugs in the future. ...but they'll be mandatory. We wouldsn't want the populace getting rowdy now would we?

Don't we get this prediction every five years? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318238)

Or something like it? The last Great Computing Hope was truly photorealistic graphics in games. I remember reading this in 1990. Well, 13 years have gone, and in-game images still don't fool me one bit.

Or will we be getting to this sentient office in our flying cars, eating a full course lunch that comes in a pill, and going back to our houses under the sea? Maybe I'll get my robot maid to make me a martini, for retro's sake.

Re:Don't we get this prediction every five years? (2, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318368)

In game graphics might not but the clusters at film houses now do photorealistic effects in basically real time (batching not withstanding). While I don't disagree with your setiment that this is simply pundits being overly optimistic and upbeat I do think they might have some kernal of truth, of course the devices will be much less automated and much less usefull then these guys are fortelling, but maybe we will have some kinds of smart agents to help us in 15 years.

Re:Don't we get this prediction every five years? (2, Informative)

CBravo (35450) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318399)

Yes, but from a big semiconductor company? Not that I think he is right though...

Suppose that computers could act as people. That would be fairly advanced, right? And adaptive, right? Then you should ask yourself the question if you want a servant around 24/7. Not only that, even servants get stuff wrong. Besides that, we are nowhere near building such a thing...

Yeah, we'll see that RSN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318239)

Right after the paperless office.

Re:Yeah, we'll see that RSN (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318518)

Right after the paperless office.

Just a sec, I have a printout of the announcement of that someplace in this pile...

Sentient Office? (5, Funny)

Gleng (537516) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318242)

I'm still waiting for sentient office workers.

File this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318243)

""In this article, the Economist explains that "sentient computing systems are likely to be everywhere within five years -- listening and watching, and ready to anticipate their users' every need.""

I have one of those. It's calleed a secretary.

I'm a Personal Assistant, you insensitive clod!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318328)

You un-empowered me with that archaic and stereotypicial moniker. I'll be sure to bring this up in group.

Sentient? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318248)

Sentient, sentient, sentient...

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Intelligent life in my office? (1)

heironymouscoward (683461) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318249)

Old joke. The only intelligent life
in my office is the cat, who knows
that it's better to sleep in the sun
than to push bytes in the shadows.

Grand plans are great, but small steps
are what it takes.

uh oh. (0, Offtopic)

CL0CKW0RK3D (685239) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318253)

its really skynet....

Only 5 years? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318262)

Sentient computing systems in 5 years? Sure.
Things we will also have in 5 years:

cheap fusion power
base on the moon
first man on mars
duke nukem forever


Re:Only 5 years? (1)

in7ane (678796) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318613)

Hey, the chinese are building a secret moon base as we speak, and you forgot the volcano layer: 0/1227223

Pay per View: Gate V.S. Hopper (1)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318270)

Is privacy something we will trade off for convenience? Sentient computing, with its reliance on knowing where users are, could certainly make the loss of privacy more serious. Dr Hopper at Cambridge University advocates acceptance and debate. Like it or not, he says, "the future is Big Brother -- so let's talk about it."

According to [] our pal Bill [] , Hooper's full of it.

Sadly, I have to believe the guy *without* billions of dollars, meetings with congresswhores, and an overwhelming desire to fund R&D, market, and monopolize Big Brother.

Big Brother Bill, thanks, but we can do without your help.

let the games begin (0)

LobsterMagnet (600137) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318277)

[i]In short, they seek to become real help-mates.[/i][p]Let the masturbation jokes begin!

California will be spared (4, Funny)

poptones (653660) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318279)

Because the one foe who can defeat SKYNET will be governor by then...

Wake me up when it's here (2, Interesting)

Anomalous Cowturd (673181) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318281)

Brilliant -- all we have to do now is get computers to think and we'll be all set.

I'm not gonna get worked up or even mildly excited about stuff like this until it's a little closer to reality - like 20 years out. There's a big difference between (quoting from the Economist article)

Some products already capture the spirit of sentient computing. When the makers of mobile phones first put the mouthpiece on a flip-up cover, users had to open the handset and irritatingly press a button to answer a call. It did not take long for manufacturers to add a sensor so that opening the flip-up cover answered a call and closing the cover ended it.


... instead of having to turn the television on, the TV will know what you want by combining an understanding of what you say, your expression, your gestures and even how you walk.

Yeah, this is supercool, and I'd love to have some, but I'm not holding my breath and I certainly don't think it's "likely to be everywhere within five years". If you want to consider computers to be conscious, it's going to take a lot more than motion sensors and cell phones that can tell when you've left your desk.

Using artificial intelligence as an analogue, we have a long time to wait indeed. AI has been promising us for what - 20 years now? - that this kind of stuff was right around the corner, and all we have to show for it is some expert systems and computers that can play chess really well. We can't even get something to pass the Turing test (flawed at that test may be).

Yeah, I know the article isn't about "sentient" technology as much as "ubiquitous" computing, but the author didn't seem to know that. It still isn't going to happen soon. Maybe my kids will have it, though.

The Fundamental Problem (5, Insightful)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318283) that the concept assumes that office dweller knows what she wants.

I'm not being facetious. I work in an office, and I can't think of anyone who's particularly well-organized. The people who do their jobs well have good job habits, not a rigid system that an adaptable computer system can learn to predict.

The basic problem with anticipatory decisions by computers is that, if it offers something the user wants, it's accepted; if it offers something the user doesn't want, it's not just rejected, it's an irritant, an interruption. The cost of being wrong far outweighs the benefit of being right. Like branch prediction in the CPU, it has to be right far more often than it's wrong to be of practical value, and human behaviour is far harder to analyse and predict than computations.

The sentient office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318288)

Is already here [] , as far as I'm concerned. I mean, it figures out everything I need to do, anyway. What more could you want?

Aaaaaaggghhhh! (1)

JanusFury (452699) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318295)

Look out for the automatic stapler! Look out! Aggghghhghghghh`!@~12 my nEck!/@

Tell... tell mY childen i love tehm..

Just a little snag. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318306)

Like, maybe inventing sentient AI first.

Re:Just a little snag. (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318526)

"Open the file drawer now, HAL."

"I can't do that, Dave.
You haven't completed your TPS reports."

Am I missing something? (5, Informative)

Splurk (576481) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318322)

Isn't someone forgetting that tiny stumbling block to making computers sentient? Namely, that nobody knows how sentience works or how to even begin implementing it in software or hardware?

sentient [] ...Note that none of the definitions have anything remotely to do with being able to "anticipate a user's every need."

Somebody seriously needs to rethink the terminology here.

Re:Am I missing something? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318426)

That article was more or less incoherent babbling.
Here's my prediction starting with the first computer program becoming self-aware:

1.) The novelty of it. Amazing to talk to a machine. This will continue for some time. Probably have a lot of cutesy computer-with-a-smiley face associations
and demonstrations

2.) AI's will learn at an exponential rate and from that point onwards, history books will read like an MC Escher painting with people shitting themselves in fear and amazement the whole time.

Helper Monkey. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318324)

Nevermind AI. There's no way that the tech will be that productive in the next 5 years.


Now -- if we only each had a helper monkey, we'd not only save on all that R&D, but all that e-waste would be eliminated too!

Re:Helper Monkey. (1)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318371)

Idea of the Year goes to you, sir.

The beauty of it is that we'll start with one, but he'll train others!

We'll all live like kings! Damn hell ass kings!

Here We Go Again... (5, Insightful)

jmh_az (666904) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318329)

Oh boy! AI in my lifetime! It will be awesome!

But, wait, didn't they make this prediction back around, oh, 1966 or so? Nifty theorem provers would unlock the power of the computer for real Artifical Intelligence? No, actually, it was predicted even earlier than that, by no less than Turing. He figured we'd have machines capable of passing his "imitation game" test by the end of the 20th century.

Wrong on all counts. Speech recognition software still requires training and it's clumsy to use. Contents filters (as now mandated for libraries receiving federal funding, thanks to the oh-so-technically-savvy U.S. Supreme Court) still can't reliably tell the difference between breasts as in breast cancer and breasts as in porno. And the AI crowd is still grappling with things like knowledge representation schemas and semantic networks.

IMHO what we will most likely see are systems with huge lookup tables and canned procedural responses driving complex state machines, not flexible systems capable of introspection or foresight. It might even begin to exhibit what the philosophy/cognitive science crowd likes to call "emergent properties". It may even begin to become useful, but it most definately won't be sentient.

I have to admit, though, it would be nice to able to ask my house AI to list my appointments for the day and assemble a personalized news report from the wires while I brush my teeth and get dressed. But I trully don't think that'll be a reality until about the time I decide to pack it in and retire, if then. And then I won't really need it, or even care.

Pfft! They promised us flying cars and video phones, too, and I haven't seen any of those running lately, either.

That's not sentient (4, Insightful)

Wateshay (122749) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318330)

I hate it when people overload a word's definition in order to create a buzzword. These systems that are being described are not sentient. For something to be sentient, it has to be conscious (i.e. self aware). These aren't sentient systems. They are simply complex predictive systems. AI is a long way from developing sentience.

Dune: Prologue (1)

ewhac (5844) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318340)

How long do you think we have until the Butlerian Jihad?


The sentient office (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318347)

But the office vending machine coffee will still taste like sh*t and the help desk will still take 3 days to create a login for a new worker.

all in a day's work (4, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318352)

This morning, I arrived at the office at 9:03. Two hours and 47 minutes later, the stapler became sentient. At 11:51, it attacked the fax machine. At 11:53, my mouse became sentient, and helped the fax machine fend off the stapler's attack. The telephone receiver became sentient at 11:53:17, and decided to attack the defenseless pile of papers to my left. The magic marker I keep next to the pile of blank CDs became sentient at 11:53:28, saw the papers flying about and scribbled obscenities on them. Meanwhile, the fax machine, crippled by the stapler's attacks, started making that shrieking noise. At 11:54:38, my laptop started biting my fingers.

I grabbed my lunch and headed out as fast as I could. It is now 12:45, and I am not sure what I will find when I return to the office, but judging from the terrorised faces of my coworkers, it can't be good.

B.S. (3, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318353)

Dumb agents that are tailored and tweaked constantly for specific tasks aren't very good yet, yet somehow omniscient agents that percieve my needs are supposed to be reality in 5 years??? Not likely. AI is a TOUGH problem, I remember when I started looking into it seriously in 97, since then not a whole hell of a lot has changed on the software front. On the hardware front we have gained some decent speed which allows more naive approaches to work. For instance in 96 some researchers made one of the first computer vision system that could read sign language in near real time, but it had to run on a $40K Indigo Graphics workstation, today that same computing power is cheaply available, but I still don't have voice dictation software that takes less time to correct than it takes me to just type in the first place. Somehow I don't see stellar leaps being made in the next 5 years when it has been slow and grueling progress over the last 40.

Same story, different vocabulary. (3, Insightful)

Professor D (680160) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318359)

Isn't this pretty much the same gee-whiz-bang story about future tech that we hear everytime a "new" technology needs some press? Anyone remember how "fuzzy logic" was going to change everything?

How about tablet PC's that were going to create a paperless office, while agents and intelligent appliances would free us from the drudgery of chores ... leaving us plenty of time to spend with our children ... who would have plenty of free time themselves ... since computers would obsolete schools ... and CD-ROMs would obsolete libraries. But that's ok, since GPS would allow us to keep track of where they went, how fast they were driving ... and smart cards would tell us where they spent their virtual money ... because secure computing was going to free us from paper money ... but not before RFID would prevent counterfeit paper from funding terrorists ... who wouldn't be an issue because of biometric id's ... would allow law enforcment to track potential terrorists by their "terrorist" genes ... that would have been identified in human DNA ... by neural net self-teaching software.

Don't even get me started on how whole cities would be built around "It."

So now someone conned the editors of the Economist into publishing an article about "sentient" environments with Bluetooth-like technology driving it all. Give me a break, we've heard it all before. I don't know exactly how the future will arrive, but I do know it ain't gonna show up via a press conference.

[That being said, as a left handed mouse user and touch typist, why _shouldn't_ all the computers I'm paid to troubleshoot automagically recognize me and give me my damn mouse config, typing macros and shortcuts?]

here it is, 3 am (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318379)

my arm hurts. do i have SARS?

I'm gonna hitup the bathroom, like now

Is it all just a greedy quest for more money? (3, Insightful)

vnv (650942) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318380)

First of all, pardon my cynicism. I can't help but think that life is already so very much more complicated for folks with the computers we have today.

Just the upkeep on several PC's takes a lot of time. It doesn't matter what OS they run -- they are all quite complex to most people.

Adding all these new sorts of sensors and having to navigate the extra complexity is not going to make life easier for anyone, especially for those who don't easily comprehend invisible sensors, monitors, data networks, etc.

There is going to be bugs in the code that listens to the incoming data from these sensors and acts on it. And normal people won't have a chance, much less programmers. Who will be able to fix a sensor problem when the house lights don't go off? Or when the toilet keeps flushing even when no one is around?

I can't help but think that many of the new technologies today are nominated for the "Dotcom 2.0" presidency and we're just waiting for one to be accepted by the media and then overhyped and oversold to the public.

As an industry, are we really focusing on making life better for people? Or are we just off inventing stuff to market and make money?

In the Business Week article that was posted recently, it says that over 80% of the cost of "business software" today is spent on installation and maintenance. With more complexity, this figure is likely to skyrocket. We, the people, pay for these costs. They are passed onto us as consumers.

I sit and write this in a tiny little edit box. That's on a nice system with two LCD 1280x1024 monitors. Even though I have plenty of screen space to support a nice editor, I am confined to a little box. It makes me think that there is so much we can do to improve the 'fit and finish' of what we've built so far instead of madly pursuing more and more features.

If we don't slow down the pace of technology, we are just building a giant mountain of half-finished stuff. Sure, a lot of money is made along the way. But has that money been spent wisely? Considering the chilling aftermath of "Dotcom 1.0" in Silicon Valley, I would say not.

I would like to see the old fashioned values of quality, usability, and value return to technology, especially software. Networks of sensors doesn't inspire me with anything other than a sense of dread. Complex stuff that doesn't really make life any better for anyone.

And thank you for reading my somewhat rantish outburst.

What I see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318381)

What I see is a big fire axe prominently available in every room, and lots of jobs in electronics recycling.

... and oh yeah, the AI. (1)

pyrrho (167252) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318382)

Challenges to sentient computing include the seamless integration of wireless networks, the spread of sensors throughout products and the environment, the accurate provision of location data, and the ability of sentient systems to merge vast volumes of widely disseminated data and customize its delivery for users. Other problems researchers will have to tackle include scalability, the development of cooperative file systems, and sentient applications' ability to find screens and network devices in close proximity to users.

Mandatory /. criticism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318383)

I subscribe to both Wired and the Economist. Yes, they are both really cool. No, not every story published in either of those mags should be posted to this site.

It's deja vu all over again...

Economist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318384)

the fact that this appears in economist, clearly shows that this is science fiction in the minds of stupid investors of the silicon valley who are looking towards the next dot com rise. Seriously, I find tech news from investor magazines so outrageous that i want to puke. I don't know about you.

typical michael.

Re:Economist? (1)

g_arumilli (324501) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318447)

Seriously, I find tech news from investor magazines so outrageous that i want to puke.

Shows how little you know about the Economist. The Economist is a high quality British magazine devoted to general international news (with a slight tilt towards international finance), not an investor's magazine that runs around dishing out stupid stock tips. While this story may not be exactly very technical or all that exciting to the Slashdot crowd, the Economist generally does a very good job at covering technological issues without a lot of hype or other assorted crap you find in magazines like Time.

Figure out what the hell you're talking about next time instead of just lashing out any magazine that attempts to report tech news without being geeky about it.

Re:Economist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318566)

While you dream on about sentient computers and intelligent gadgets that do your homework, we do some real scientific work.

Oh yeah, this is gonna work. (4, Insightful)

sllim (95682) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318390)

Talking to a computer is a fantascticly awful experience.
Case in point:

Clair (automated voice operator from hell, Sprint PCS customers know who I am talking about)

Clair: 'Welcome to Sprint. How may I help you?'

(I begin to sweat, my blood pressure goes up)
'Ummm.... ughhhh...'

Clair: 'Sorry, I don't recognize that response. How may I help you?'

Me: 'ummm Why is there a charge on my phone bill I don't recognize?'

Clair: 'Sorry, I don't recognize that response. How may I help you?'

(If at first you don't succeed, chew clair out)

Me: 'I hate you clair. You are ugly, and your Mom was a 56K modem. Your Dad is an out of work IBM.'

Clair: 'Sorry, I don't recognize that response. How may I help you?'

Me: 'Billing problems?'

Clair: 'Sorry, I don't recognize that response. How may I help you?' ....

goes on and on and on and on...

So yeah, talking to a computer gets me real excited.


Re:Oh yeah, this is gonna work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318410)

What if the prophecy is true? What if in five years the war could be over? Isn't that worth fighting for?

Oh come on.. (0, Flamebait)

Bowie J. Poag (16898) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318391)

"sentient computing systems are likely to be everywhere within five years -- listening and watching, and ready to anticipate their users' every need."

Yes -- and followed directly by a wave of pigs flying out of my ass!

No "Off" State! (3, Insightful)

irishkev (457679) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318403)

B Gates is releasing the 1984 telescreen to beta this fall. I'm going to go live in the trees. The End. ht ml#95779870

1984 Telescreen: Microsoft Athens

Digital Rights Management (DRM) computers are going to be a reality just as certainly as the sun will rise in the morning. The systems will be ubiquitous within two years. But what will they look like?

Microsoft has unveiled (unfurled) its hellish vision of the future of computing: Athens. Never mind the fact that Longhorn sees all and knows all. Never mind the fact that you are not root on Longhorn. Never mind the fact that the system is fully integrated with a thumbscanner, camera, telephone and microphone. Never mind the fact that there will be no way to run a non DRM operating system on Longhorn class hardware. (Cops will show up if you somehow manage to circumvent the DRM mechanisms.)

Make sure you're sitting down for this one:

Would you believe that Microsoft's system of the future has no "Off" state? From

Speaking of mute, Athens will be a whisper-quiet, small-form-factor machine, whose power button switches between on and standby modes rather than on and off -- resuming work in no more than two seconds. In the event of a power failure, a built-in battery will last long enough to hibernate or save system status to the hard disk.

Here is more on the no "Off" feature from a Microsoft document entitled, The "Athens" PC (Microsoft Word document):

The notion of "off" is confusing to users, because the PC can be in standby, hibernation or true "off" modes, Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) states S3, S4 and S5, respectively. Each of these states has a different latency when the user turns the PC on again: it takes longer to start the PC from S4 than from S3, and still longer to start the PC from S5.

In usability tests, participants preferred a two-state (on/standby) power model over a three-state (on/standby/off) model. They felt the two-state power model was more appealing than the power model used by today's PCs. This research suggests that users would be more likely to put their PCs in standby mode if it were more convenient to do so.

Note: The system checks your email when in standby mode, i.e. the network interface and applications are operational in standby mode. That thing isn't off. Not by a long shot.

Yes, you can pull the plug out of the wall, and let the battery go dead.

Will Microsoft call you, though, wondering if your PC is being tampered with? Is the person who unplugged the PC from the power socket authorized to do so? Maybe you will just learn from habit --- from habit that will become instinct --- to never pull the plug out of the wall.

From 1984, by George Orwell:

The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live --- did live, from habit that became instinct --- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

Re:No "Off" State! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318514)

Here's a good signal that will mean it's time to live in the trees:

When it's considered a violation of DRM to unplug the power or network cables from your computer. Or when you must explain to someone why you've done so.

I can see it now on some future news group: ....

Scared1 wrote:
>Oh shit, can you believe they passed a law making it >illegal to unplug our computers? What the fuck?! I >mean, how can one fail to acknowledge this as a >blatent violation of the 4th Amendment??

Hahaha dude! Better get your tinfoil hat(shiny side out). The 4th didn't say anything about computers and it was just some law that applied to ancient times and has nothing to do with life today. If you don't like the decisions the Leaders are making, too bad. They won fair and square on

Besides, you know as well as I do that the only people who pull the connections to their computers without contacting their local Homeland Office are just pirates or terrorists.

Mr Clippy (2, Funny)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318408)

Do I get a physical Mr Clippy?

I think I may just kill myself now instead.

The only important quote. (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318412)

"Finally, there is the profit motive, or lack thereof. With the IT industry having been in the doldrums for two years now, firms are desperate for something new--anything--to kick-start demand."

All the rest was just filler... with this innocent looking sublimal message right in the middle.

Any questions?

Looong (1)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318415)

What is it with the recent long story headers here on slashdot, they seem to go on and on and ramble a lot like that last ask slashdot that talked about the audio stuff... but yeah.?

Microsoft is leading on this (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6318419)

Already my system knows when I need to take a break and forces me to do so by coming to a complete halt, requiring a relaxing reboot.

Occassionally, my system will recognize when a document I am working on is moving in a completely hopeless direction and will shut down the application as I'm working on it, effectively tossing out all of my errant work. Who knew that starting over would be the best course of action? MS Word did!

And sometimes, when I am completely confused and wrong-thinking, I will attempt to play music files or view movies that I have not been authorized to view. Thank Bill that I don't pursue such behaviors, lest I be sued. Instead, this sort of thing is halted immediately.

Once I tried to use outdated software, but was reminded several times to upgrade to the latest Microsoft versions of all of my software, which while costly, was ultimately better for me. There again, my computer is looking out for me.

I'm being told that I should end this post now. I guess I gotta go.

I'm still waiting for the paperless office... (5, Insightful)

arevos (659374) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318425)

Predictions like this are all fine and good, but we have a huge backlog of technology that needs to be developed. For instance, flying cars. We've been promised goddamn flying cars for years now. I want my flying car!

So before working on sentient offices, I suggest some extra time is devoted to such projects as flying cars, the paperless office, the helpful computer, and Duke Nukem Forever.

I hold out hope for all but the last.

Excellent (1)

Small Hairy Troll (9576) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318427)

Now the whole office can join in the QuakeIII deathmatch.

Sentient? (1)

Kynde (324134) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318445)

Hah. Doesn't intelligent have enough hype anymore? What's next? selfconscious? superhuman?

Sentient Lifts ? (5, Funny)

bushboy (112290) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318446)

(Soft muzakky sort of voice) Hello. I am to be your elevator for this trip to the floor of your choice. I have been designed by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation to take you, the visitor to the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, into these, their offices. If you enjoy your ride which will be swift and pleasurable then you may care to experience some of the other elevators which have recently been installed in the offices of the Galactic Tax Department, Boobiloo Baby Foods and the Sirian State Mental Hospital, where many ex-Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Executives will be delighted to welcome your visits, sympathy and happy tales of life out in the big wide world.

Yeah? What else to you do besides talk?

I go up or down.

Good. We're going up.

Or down.

Yeah, ok, up please.

Down's very nice.

Oh yeah?


Good. Now will you take us up?

May I ask you if you've considered all the possibilities that down might offer you?

HuCoNOS - Human Computer Network Operating System (1)

leoaugust (665240) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318494)

I think that there is too much emphasis paid to the computing aspect. There are two other aspects that need to be considered - the memory aspect, and the AGENT of interaction between cpu (computing) and memory roles. In some cases the computer does the computing, but in many cases it just serves as an extension of our memory. The roles of the Humans change from being of the memory role to the cpu role almost instantly, with the Computer picking up the complimentary role - thus creating what we call the S-W Computer.

In short, the computer has 5 elements - input, output, storage, cpu, and memory. The input, output, and storage is provided by the hardware. We are left with the cpu and the memory aspects. In the HuCoNOS (Human Computer Network Operating System) one of the roles, either memory or cpu, is taken by the Human and the other by the Computer, and this whole arrangement in time can be considered as the S-W Computer.

What is most important is the how the roles of the human are changing from that of CPU to that of MEMORY, and how this journey between these "mutually exclusive" roles is traversed in time. In the S-W Computer conception, the human itself is a part of the computer, thus bringing in the notion of sentient ... Infact, by the element of dyanmism that is added, there is a notion of emergent that becomes important, giving rise to Network Intelligence (a network analogue of Artificial Intelligence).

There is a simple explanation in My Invention Disclosure at North Carolina State University. (1.2 MB) [] ure%20NCSU%20Sept%2025%202000.doc (1.2 MB)

I also had some description of this S-W Machine (a sort of GUI Turing Machine) and S-W Computer in my doctoral thesis, but don't have the separate chapters posted. One of these days I will break up the thesis and post these relevant sections describing these concepts.

Re:HuCoNOS - Human Computer Network Operating Syst (1)

Bawko (132065) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318568)

Considering that you are well versed in computer hardware/software, it would be VERY appreciated if you DID NOT POST YOUR PAPER IN WORD FORMAT. Sheesh.... don't you know enough about documents to know that NOBODY on this board who has an IQ above 60 is going to download your POSSIBLY MACRO VIRUS RIDDEN document? If you really want people to read it, get a CLUE and publish it correctly.
Please post in a non-macro supporting standard format, such as .PDF, .TXT, .PS, or a series of .JPG image files.
It always surprises me how many OTHERWISE TECHNICAL people just don't get this.....

Five Years? Doubtful. (2, Insightful)

Bombula (670389) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318528)

Well it sure isn't going to be M$ that rolls out a sentient OS within 5 years. Anticipate users' needs? How about the need for a OS that is actually secure? Or actually stable?

I only see the faintest glimmer of predictive functionality in the most popular software out there. When the OS can watch across multiple applications, recognize when I do the same 6 commands in Photoshop followed by the same 6 commands in Excel followed by the same 6 commands in Dreamweaver over and over again and anticipate my desire to automate the task as opposed to indulging my private pursuit of carpel tunnel syndrome, then - and only then - will I buy any of this nonsense about sentient computers.

But I don't WANT a "sentient office"... (1)

krinsh (94283) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318539)

I want more advancements in how I manage and organize my information; and how what is personal and private to me is kept personal and private - and secure. I want greater data storage in smaller spaces; I want keyboards and other user interfaces that are more comfortable and intuitive and not just gimmicky or requiring a learning curve to adapt to - like the displays and user interfaces in "Minority Report". [I also want a "Girl Friday" since I can't seem to get my wife to help me cook, clean, pick up dry cleaning and run other errands, etc. - but that's just as unlikely as any of these 'office innovations' ever improving the quality of the workplace for the everyday user.]

What if we move? (2, Insightful)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318552)

Okay, so the article is about the office, but lets talk about this technology in general. I am currently renting, and have so far had to move 16 times in the last 6 years (generally had extrodinarily bad luck finding somewhere permanent). Obviously, as we're renting, things like the fridge, washing machine, etc are part of the flat, and do not move with us.

So, what happens when we move? Does the new fridge try mapping me to its old owner? Maybe it decides I'm an intruder, and throws old milk at me? Are all my preferences written to CD by the old house, for loading into the new, because I'm really sure all the manufacturers will make their equipment compatible!

Additionally, I don't know about anyone else, but I'm always somewhat unnerved by moving. I'm generally a little more tense for a week afterwards, it wrecks havoc with my sleep pattern, this sort of thing. How well will this technology cope with that sort of event?

Security issues? (1)

Leroy_Brown242 (683141) | more than 11 years ago | (#6318607)

Anysystem capable of tracking your wants and needs can be used to track your location or habits.

If this system got hacked, you could potentially gather information on someone, like you were sitting over thier shoulder watching, because you are!

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