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The Sentient Office Is Coming 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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The Sentient Office Is Coming

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  • by FryGuy1013 ( 664126 ) * on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:14AM (#6318190) Homepage
    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
    • Heck, I still have a Microsoft Bob t-shirt from when I worked in retail.

      great for halloween, etc. I figure that at some point it will become desirable on ebay or something.

      This place [building19.com] actually had a trademark dispute with Microsoft over the MS Bob smiley face because they had a similar trademark smiley face with glasses predating it. If I recall right, they won.

      Another random thought: just what we need for saturday mornings: super clippy

      Microsoft Bob is not related to Microsoft Bill

  • At Last! (Score:5, Funny)

    by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoiNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:15AM (#6318194) Journal
    I'm glad the Sentient Office is coming, since with all my extra hours and no overtime [slashdot.org], I'll soon be downgraded to Inanimate Object!
  • by rob-fu ( 564277 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:15AM (#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.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      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. :-)

  • by Justen ( 517232 ) * on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:16AM (#6318202) Homepage Journal
    On the most basic level, some of these ideas exist in tangible forms today.

    Salling Software's Clicker [mac.com] 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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:17AM (#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.
    • 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
  • by CitizenJohnJohn ( 640701 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:17AM (#6318204)
    The sentient boss!
  • 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.
  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:22AM (#6318227) Homepage Journal
    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.

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

      Sounds a lot like Project Starfire [asktog.com].
    • by Anonymous Coward
      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 frid
    • by Zork the Almighty ( 599344 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:53AM (#6318453) Journal
      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.
      • Cooper in "About Face" where he talks about his likes and dislikes complains about too many popups and alerts. Many of the alerts are for things like "Do you really want to formant Drive C:?" where they are supposed to save you from disaster while in Windows XP when I select Start (yeah, I know) followed by Shut Down it gives me a really annoying dialog box (I told you to shut down and now you are asking again -- actually the same sequence is in Windows 98, but somehow it seems less annoying because it is
  • It's been around for a while. It's great! get at bonzai-buddy.com [bonzai-buddy.com]
  • The future (Score:5, Funny)

    by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoiNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:23AM (#6318237) Journal
    In the future [weblogs.com], 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:24AM (#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.
    • 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.
    • 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...
  • by Gleng ( 537516 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:25AM (#6318242)

    I'm still waiting for sentient office workers.

  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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

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

      http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/05/3 0/1227223
  • 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 [zdnet.co.uk] our pal Bill [slashdot.org], 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,

    • Well if Gates effectively wants to create Big Brother, would it not make sense that his words are actually Newspeak? "The future is not Big Brother" would actually mean the opposite. Someone in government understands this principle well, as you might have noticed....


  • by poptones ( 653660 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:39AM (#6318279) Journal
    Because the one foe who can defeat SKYNET will be governor by then...
  • 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
  • by jjohnson ( 62583 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:41AM (#6318283) Homepage
    ...is 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.
  • Look out for the automatic stapler! Look out! Aggghghhghghghh`!@~12 my nEck!/@

    Tell... tell mY childen i love tehm..
  • by Splurk ( 576481 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @03:57AM (#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 [reference.com]...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.

  • by jmh_az ( 666904 ) * on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:01AM (#6318329) Journal
    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.

    • by TDScott ( 260197 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @07:06AM (#6318715)
      The first mobile videophones [three.co.uk] are already on sale and in use. We're not quite there with the flying cars yet, though.
    • Sing the gospel, brother!

      I think the article is another attempt to rah-rah companies who purport to be involved in AI just to support their stock price. So, I must call this article's line of bullpucky ... show me your freaking' cards!

      We have been hearing about AI for long enough to know further empty promises when we hear them. Do we have to go through this continually, cycle after cycle, of hearing about how smart computers will get? Sheesh, it seems that most of the "intelligence" put into systems
    • It's not quite video phones, but in some ways it's better. Here's the recent Slashdot article on it [slashdot.org].
    • You have some good points, although I must disagree with some of your conclusions...

      [Turing] figured we'd have machines capable of passing his "imitation game" test by the end of the 20th century.

      Have you considered the implications of Carson Daily's simulacrum [slashdot.org], as being proof-positive that technology is passing the "imitation game"? Granted, as the old saying goes, you can fool some of the people all the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time...

      "Pfft! They promised us flying
    • Contents [sic] 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.

      Did you read the decision? The Court ruled that the filters in place were legal (not required) and the laws requireing them to be in place were legal (but repealable). Furthermore, the Court ruled that this was the case ONLY if the filters could be taken down on dema
  • by Wateshay ( 122749 ) <bill,nagel&gmail,com> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:01AM (#6318330) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • How long do you think we have until the Butlerian Jihad?


  • 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.
  • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:11AM (#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. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:12AM (#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.
  • by Professor D ( 680160 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:13AM (#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?]

  • my arm hurts. do i have SARS?

    I'm gonna hitup the bathroom, like now
  • by vnv ( 650942 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:22AM (#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.
  • 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 pro
  • by sllim ( 95682 ) <(ten.knilhtrae) (ta) (ecnahca)> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:25AM (#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.

  • No "Off" State! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by irishkev ( 457679 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:31AM (#6318403) Homepage
    B Gates is releasing the 1984 telescreen to beta this fall. I'm going to go live in the trees. The End.

    http://www.cryptogon.com/2003_06_15_blogarchive. 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 HardwareCentral.com:

    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.
  • Mr Clippy (Score:3, Funny)

    by AvitarX ( 172628 ) <`gro.derdnuheniwydnarb' `ta' `em'> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:33AM (#6318408) Journal
    Do I get a physical Mr Clippy?

    I think I may just kill myself now instead.
  • "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?

  • 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.?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    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 a

    • Cue hysterical Microsoft shill: "XP is so stable, I manage 25344563 workstations and none of them have bluescreened in the last 6 months and you zealots just want any excuse to bash Microsoft coz slashbots are blah blah blah......"
  • by arevos ( 659374 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:39AM (#6318425) Homepage
    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.
  • Now the whole office can join in the QuakeIII deathmatch.

  • Hah. Doesn't intelligent have enough hype anymore? What's next? selfconscious? superhuman?
  • by bushboy ( 112290 ) <lttc@lefthandedmonkeys.org> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:50AM (#6318446) Homepage
    (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?

  • 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-

  • by Bombula ( 670389 )
    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

  • 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
  • What if we move? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Xugumad ( 39311 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:41AM (#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?

    • You sound like your having a real flap situation there mon-squire - calm your ass down and take 3 deep breaths and one more for good luck, dammit !

      So you've moved 16 times in 6 years - well good for you ! - I've moved 12 times in the past 8 years, so ya beat me - whad-about-that !

      What happens when you move, you whinging putz, is that you inherit all the quirks of the house you just bought, but in this case, it includes the Monsters ! (sentient servants) !

      So then you hack the freakers, take control once a
  • 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!

  • by PS-SCUD ( 601089 ) <peternormanscott@yahoo . c om> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @06:20AM (#6318627) Journal
    "I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that."

  • it's not sentient (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Eminor ( 455350 )
    Just because it can "sense" (has inputs), that does not make it sentient.,Sentience requires conciousness. AFAIK silicon is not concious. If that were true, my 386 was sentient and I should have felt bad for "killing" it.
    • Parent is exactly right. "Sentience" is not about having senses, it is about having a consciousness to receive those senses. This is an extremely important concept, core to the whole philosophical question of whether artificial consciousness is possible.

      I can and do argue that the sentience of an artifact is an inherently undecideable question, and that therefore the strong AI program is futile. I can't make this argument, and you can't argue against me if you disagree, if my vocabulary is polluted with m

  • Enter the Matrix... Need I say more
  • Computer: Hi there!

    Me: Make me a cup of tea...
  • It's rather light fare. One of those glowing evangelicals you usually see in Wired, meant to grab the attention of the savvy rich and businesslike. If the "Sentient Office" and all is going to be accepted, people are going to have to want it first. Articles like this want only to start/stoke that desire, not actually explain them in any meaningful fashion.

    Alot of companies are still struggling to make sense of technology acquired when budgets were fat. Snake-oil developers, lazy consultants, untrained co

  • Stirring deep within a memetic soup of half-conceived notions and half-understood terminology, the latest buzzword chimera of the brave new computing future is born. Is this creature the essence of our collective future? Maybe it is, but most definitely its a clever trick to sell magazines.

    As a student of Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence, articles like this quite frankly give me a queasy feeling at the pit of my stomach. Someone has taken the material that I ( and many others ) sweat over a

  • like computers and applications that don't crash?

    I mean, hell, i have Mac OS X on my laptop, and it still crashes about once a month. I have apps that dump on me constantly. And don't talk to me about Windows 2000 and IE 5.5 on it... that thing bombs all the time (its the Big Company's standard install, and I don't have admin privs. outdated versions of Windows turns out to be the fscking Windows experience of MANY people around the world, okay?)

    I sear, i thought it had already been established that all
  • right... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by painehope ( 580569 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @12:39PM (#6319784)
    shouldn't there be a rule against posting this stuff before noon? I don't need my blood pressure to get this high before my first cup of coffee...

    as for the sentient office, good luck. most people can't accurately and intelligently interact with a Web search engine.

    Microsoft keeps getting mentioned in this article. I can just see my interaction w/ this ( not that I touch a Microsoft box unless I'm making a BIOS flash disk from a .exe file ) thing :

    Clippy2000 : You seem to be angry. I am changing your theme to pastel blue and your background music to some rain forest new wave soothing relaxing vibes. How does this tropical background look?

    Me : Fucking wonderful if I was there. Now just shut up and let me make this boot disk, then you can pastel-blue-rain-forest yourself to fucking death.

    Clippy2000 : Why do I never see you? I see you once a month, and the cameras in your office seem to be malfunctioning, yet building service seems unable to fix them, and your boss refuses to talk to me. I am unable to gather sufficient information to form a suitable interface for you.

    Me : What a surprise. Where'd that fucking file go?

    Clippy2000 : Which file?

    Me : BIOSx335.exe sitting in cygwin/home/sickboy/BIOSupdates, you fucking twit.

    Clippy2000 : I needed that space for the new DRM-enabled MicrosoftRIAAplayer upgrade, the rain forest music DRM encoding needed the latest-


    Me : Fuck this, I'm setting up Wine.

    I don't need something that tries to second guess me. I need something that can parse large amounts of data at a fast rate, something like Google on steroids. I am capable of non-linear thought about multiple things at once, a computer is not. And your average Joe Blow Office Worker, the last thing he needs is more confusion.

    And you're crazy if you think Microsoft and company won't turn this into another system of control.

  • If you are using the word in the sence that these things have consciousness (which is the way I and most others I talk to use it)... then I don't think so. If you were to call these computers sentient, all other organisms must then also be concidered sentient (and most would be much much more so)... and to simply claim that would be very "ballsy". I doubt that true sentience will be reached within those computers... apparent sentience (that which acts self-aware, but truely isn't) can be created with simple
  • Isn't this one of those things that is perpetually just around the corner, like Duke Nukem?
  • Sure, some aspects will make it, but experience tells me that most of this stuff just gets in teh way of productivity.

    And it's not just for the geeks who don't like stuff happening without our express say so, but the normal people who have to use pc's don't like it either. I have yet to meet some-one who actually liked Clippy, or thought other such things where even usefull...most of the time people where gratefull beyond measure when I shut that kind of crap off.

    It boils down to this; people want and nee
  • This goes a long way towards explaining attitudes in the office.

    People would rather have a servant helping them avoid work that they have to do, rather than have a partner helping them achieve new things that they cannot do themselves.

    In this case, they'd rather give orders to computers rather than struggle to learn something new with them.
  • I can't pay you.
  • The network will become fully sentient soon.

    All the indications are clear. Within 10 years time, the consciousness of the people comprising the communications of the planet are combining into a common intelligence.

    It is not only predictable, it is now inevitable. Just as Moore's Law predicts the doubling of circuit density every 18 months, the doubling of communications links proceeds at a geometric rate.

    Copyright will fall to the network. The intelligence of the network is directly proportionate to the
  • Five years is quite a bit to soon. Sentient suggests higher brain function. Sentient automation would do tech support and other fuctions needing to make on the fly judgmens.

    First we need a theroy of how to make a sentient computer then someone builds the first sentient super computer.. Probably a large tech company or a high tech university. Then hobbyests will play with scaled down versions untill it works reasonably well on the desk top then down to lap top then over priced consummer gadget and eventual

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine