Posts Tagged ‘AI’

When will computers truly "work" for us?

August 2, 2008

I know that I don’t live in the time of the Minority Report or iRobot and I also know that I have a pretty big imagination but I kind of thought that computers were here to serve us.  While we are pretty far away from a central computer in our house asking us if they can turn our favorite music on or prepare some popcorn for the movie viewing time we have scheduled, I think we need to re-establish expectations.

Computer = No Help

Maybe I am being cynical but today my computer really only asks me to do things

  • There are 150 e-mails waiting for your input in your Unread Box
  • You have 24 meetings today you need to attend
  • There are 12 tasks outlined as “High Priority” due yesterday
  • AVG 7.5 needs to be upgraded (oh and by the way it is no longer free)

Rarely can I say to my computer: “Hey why don’t you get started on organizing those tasks in the project plan” or “When are you going to convert that Statement of Work to a PDF – the customer needs it tomorrow”.  Ok not even “rarely” – never.

I often wonder what it would be like to be totally connected to my computer.  I know that they are doing some cool things up the road at MIT and other Biotech companies related to integrated mind computers.  Mostly now these projects are isolated to paralysis victims or those hindered with MS – but I think I am ready.

Ok, so that won’t happen anytime soon.

Pattern matching

So there is one thing that I also think about a lot which I think could be quite possible (e.g. the technology is available – but it would require some work).  Ever get caught doing repetitive tasks? As an occasional programmer and administrative assistant to myself I find times where a pattern matching program might be nice – and totally possible.

Take the following situation:

I often miss a complete day of Twitter (remember the number of meetings/emails outlined above – only a slight exaggeration).  Unfortunately, today the interface for  twitter does not accommodate the occasional missed day – you see – the timeline display for Twitter runs descending and they only display a certain number of tweets on a page.  In order, to read the tweets you missed (while you were off doing oh you know work) you have to go backwards.  Which means if a conversation took place where someone asked a question – you would see the answer before you saw the question – dumb.

So, what I do to solve this problem is to add Firefox toolbar bookmarks to my Twitter pages backwards.  Starting with the URL: (um – yeah it only goes to 10 pages so if you wait to long you miss everything – which is another story) and working may way back to

The task for doing this is quite repetitive and would go something like this

  1. Create Twitter Folder on Firefox browser toolbar
  2. Navigate to ?page=10 and drag to Twitter Folder
  3. Navigate to ?page=9 and drag to Twitter Folder
  4. Navigate to ?page=8 and drag to Twitter Folder
  5. (Could use the pattern matcher right now …)
  6. etc…




Computer = Help

What I would like my computer to “say” is this:

Ron, I see you are entering into a boring pattern related data entry task (and i would hope that this starts right after step 2 from above).  Should I copy multiple bookmarks stopping at ?page=1?

Where I would reply

Why thank you that would be great.

And now my computer would be doing tasks for me.  After taking with our development teams about our Automated QA program – where servers check in with a central QA management server to pick up their next set of QA test cases – I know that this possible.