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Friday, November 14, 2003

Philosophy and New Technology
Almost a stereotypical day today at CMU. I went to two special lectures. The first was given by John SanGiovanni, a Technical Evangelist for Microsoft in their Mobile Computing & Wireless Technologies unit. He showed off some new cool stuff happening with the tablet PC (interactive sketching canvasses, 3D sketches that you can instantly start to manipulate in space), trends in mobile computing (MS's Spot Network), and his own research into Xnav. Xnav is a gesturing system that replaces traditional keyboards and other input devices. Neema has a more detailed overview of it on his site. It was a neat idea, but its implementation still revolved around things like joysticks. I thought it was going to incorporate some sort of glove that fit on your non-dominant hand that you would then use by gesturing in a small way with your index finger or thumb. But still an interesting idea.

The second lecture was by Eugene Garver, Regents Professor of Philosophy at St. John's University. The topic was philosophical ethos. He read a paper on books and philosophy: does philosophy mainly reside in books or is it rather in life/speech?

Some interesting topics were raised. Garver put forth the notion that too much specialization makes one less of a citizen. As your knowledge gets specialized, you engage with less and less of the world and more with a smaller group of people who understand what you are talking about. While this might apply in academia, I'm not sure I believe it applies universally. As the world and its problems get more complex, we need specialists to solve them, not generalists (although I agree that generalists are also of importance). Arguably, the history of the world has been shaped by specialists in fields of art, science, politics, religion. Is the Dalai Lama not a great citizen because he is a specialist? Was Einstein? Lincoln?

Another interesting topic was the idea of the US Constitution becoming, after the civil war, the language American's use to talk about justice. It provides now a type of base from which our concept of justice springs.

We also talked about reading and writing, and how designers need to take care not to overly "de-skill" users, lest they lose their humanity.

posted at 07:20 PM in special guest stars | comments (0) | trackback (0)


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