Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wetware

Wetware is here, apparently. My husband and I have a long standing debate as to when wetware will hit--both in terms of the technology available and the public's willingness to use it. Wetware is a term in sci-fi for direct interface with technology--wet human brain straight to silicon one--eliminating that annoying gap between brain and fingers. (According to Wikpedia it's also a jokey term FOR the human user already, as in, "Oh, you got yourself a problem with the wetware." Or, "It's not your computer or your software, idiot, it's you.") I think the term has been around since at least the mid-80's (though the concept may predate it--we've always known that to maximize computer use we would need to maximize us) and I've been aware of it since the early 90's. So listening to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," today one of the questions involved a new system for direct interface to increase the human ability to recognize images--thus allowing police to view surveillance tapes faster and make the connections they need to make (or as the MC joked, "Allowing you to watch 50 hours of YouTube in one day.") So if they are willing to admit it's in development it's probably already in use in the government. I can't find any details in a quick skim of the internet as in how it's plugged in and how far along they are. So it's rapidly becoming clear that the technology is here. The question is who will be willing to have the jack put into their heads.
I think we are rapidly approaching a time when we will have a subcutaneous chip with all of our information and probably our credit on it, and I think that few, maybe not my generation, but certainly the one after which has so willingly been pierced and dyed for fashion, will have any hesitation. Paranoia aside, I probably have no problem with it. My husband has a big problem with it, but he's a) more paranoid than I am, and b) more afraid of needles. But this is not true wetware, as the interface is still computer to computer, chip to reader, only the iPod is in you, not carried in a stylish pack. I think of all the housewives I've waited on in retail who despite voluminous purses have forgotten their frequent buyer cards, but certainly demand their benefits. They may be squeamish at first, but the ease of passing a finger over a reader will overcome their hesitation.
My husband thinks that people (even the pierced and tattooed) will still resist a jack in their heads that links them with their computer. I am amazed that it hasn't been demanded already. As each new generation has more and more choice--more customization of themselves and the products around them, and as technology becomes ever more personal, I think that they will welcome wetware as the NEXT experience. Films in your head, sound direct to the processing centers of the brain without the weak eardrum getting in the way. My only question is, "What comes after?"

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