Notes from The Second Coming – A Manifesto

David Gelernter has been through a lot, from inventing computer languages and forecasting the WWW to suffering a misguided Unabomber blast. This manifesto, written in 2000, is already beginning to come true…

* Google’s on the right track, basing their model on the world’s best “collection of information”.

> 9 The computing future is based on “cyberbodies” — self-contained, neatly-ordered, beautifully-laid-out collections of information, like immaculate giant gardens.

* Browser == “tuner”?

> 11 Your whole electronic life will be stored in a cyberbody. You can summon it to any tuner at any time.

* This reminds me of Google’s “Turn OFF personalized results”:

> 13 Any well-designed next-generation electronic gadget will come with a “Disable Omniscience” button.

* Yet he likes the desktop model for computing; what about “tuners”?

> 19 The power of desktop machines is a magnet that will reverse today’s “everything onto the Web!” trend. Desktop power will inevitably drag information out of remote servers onto desktops.

* The idea behind BitTorrent?

> 20 If a million people use a Web site simultaneously, doesn’t that mean that we must have a heavy-duty remote server to keep them all happy? No; we could move the site onto a million desktops and use the internet for coordination.

* Ha ha, David Kelley!

> 23 The computer mouse was a brilliant invention, but we can see today that it is a bad design. Like any device that must be moved and placed precisely, it ought to provide tactile feedback; it doesn’t.

* Why “files” and “folders” (even in email) are a bad idea:

> Computers are fundamentally unlike file cabinets because they can take action.

* Proposing autonaming? Sort by attribute? Or (gasp!) search?

> 30 If you have three pet dogs, give them names. If you have 10,000 head of cattle, don’t bother. Nowadays the idea of giving a name to every file on your computer is ridiculous.

* Well, [_I_ could have told you this](

> 34 In the beginning, computers dealt mainly in numbers and words. Today they deal mainly with pictures. In a new period now emerging, they will deal mainly with tangible time — time made visible and concrete. Chronologies and timelines tend to be awkward in the off-computer world of paper, but they are natural online.