Or, What I Have In Common With Craig Silverstein.
I’ve been enjoying John Battele’s The Search, a history of the search engine business from Archie to Google. He quotes Google’s first employee, Craig Silverstein, as saying, “I would like to see the search engines become like the computers in Star Trek. You talk to them and they understand what you’re asking.”
This is exactly what I’ve often said I want, except that I would extend the concept beyond search engines to computers in general. This leads me to a Grand Prediction On The Future Of Computing. I call it “Do Engines.” No, seriously, stay with me here. Google has gotten pretty close to the Star Trek computer when it comes to one specific task, namely, searching for information. The Google search box lets you tell the computer “find this” and it gets what you want.
The next stage must be the ability to say “do this” and have the computer know what you want, as in “email my résumé to Craig Silverstein.” Natural-language processing has so far had little success at this. (Battele cites GNP Development, a product that added natural-language spreadsheet formulas to to Lotus 1-2-3, but it didn’t catch on.) I believe that now, with the advent of web-based applications for desktop tasks such as word processing and spreadsheets, the “do engine” can become a reality. Instead of digging through menus and dialog boxes to find a command or setting to achieve the effect you want, you just type in what you want and click “do.”