Tuesday, December 27, 2005

To sleep or not to sleep

It's getting on 0300 and I need to get up at 0700. Just finished reviewing a paper, and could start working on another one (rare burst of work-directed energy, propmpted by deadline pressures). Or I could sleep (the single cup of coffee I had six hours ago has to wear off sometime). Or I could go through some more of the awesome Batman collections my cousin has. Or I could work on any number of little projects that need doing - updating my résumé (that's Dr. Jaggi to you, heh! :), reviewing my brother's, sending off my applications for my next positions (yeah, it's kinda weird, I haven't yet started this one and already have to think about the next one, but that's the way the academic cycle works - interesting positions start coming out in the fall, with deadlines often in Jan/Feb - I might stick around in Boston for more than a year for all I know, but still...)

Hmm, maybe instead of anything vaguely non-pointless like any of that I'll just ramble on in yet another blog entry.

So that's what I'm doing. While in the background I'm copying 5 years worth of emails from my lab server onto my laptop. It's one of those almost-totally-but-not-quite automatable tasks; every once in a couple minutes I have to go back and tap a couple keys.

Which is extremely distracting. Not just 'cos it breaks a chain of thought, but because I rediscover long-lost friends, lost causes, fruity ideas, little spats. It's like having an iPod-style shuffle-your-past button clicking straight into my past. See, I'm kind of a squirrel when it comes to emails. I have about 20,000 emails I've saved. That's about 10 emails a day. That's actually quite a lot, when I think about it; it's really a pretty good cross-section of my life, especially considering so much of it is spent hunched over a keyboard.

Here're results of a random walk. There're the Nimbus 2003 emails. Then there's the email about the roller-blading lessons I was giving a desi friend (a case of the one-eyed leading the blind). And then {blushing} those emails to this woman I had a crush on {blushes are about the terrible compositional quality of the emails, not the content - of course not...}

Of course not everything makes it into this vast vat of bits and pieces. Fr'instance, I just deleted a year's worth of work intentionally - top-secret grad-student honour code committee stuff. More pertinently, things that for whatever reason never make it into electronic media. Such as what's actually been occupying me mentally for the last twelve hours, but there's no way I'm committing to anything as permanent as electrons on bits of silicon, 'cos the core of it is not my secret to share. Or even just silly , random but worth-remembering memories, of hikes and bike-rides done, restaurants sampled, concerts listened to, songs which made me cry, the times when I smiled knowingly at myself in the mirror... you know what I'm talking about.

Okay, still and all, lots of material for future biographers to smack their lips about. Why do I keep stuff, most of which is essentially junk? Well, started off 'cos a person-who-shall-remain unnamed dug out some random email I'd sent a year previously to prove this person's point in an argument with me. This impressed me enough that I resolved to do the same with my own emails; after all, it costs nothing, and with the nifty search technology built into modern mailboxes, it's all good stuff.

Which gets me to thinking, what next? Will my equally geeky kids be walking around with a personal video(/holo?)-cam switched on 24/7 to record every single bit of their life just because they can? Which they can then date-mine with nifty almost-AI-level algorithms which can search for relevance in sound (easiest, though still pretty hard), images (much harder) and video/holo (hardest) like google does for text-based material right now?

All those emails I've sent have certainly improved my writing skills; though possibly at the expense of social skills I could have developed more (not that I ain't already a charmer ;) This is already an improvement from the previous generation of geeks who'd get their hands dirty and greasy actually building stuff. Will tech-obsessive people 30 years later actually be (gasp) the most socially sophisticated, having spent so much time crafting the perfect holo-mail (holocams don't lie - you can't just act cool, you have to be cool)? Slashdotter for president?

How about advertising in that information-saturation age? Something will have to pay for all that information-gathering and analysis; quite possibly the Google model where they do all the hard work in exchange for us giving a fraction of our brain-power to that there ad being played subliminally, under the voice message being piped through the ear-piece from which we get input from our ring-'puter. And how will Google access our private information? Via Googlebots, of course. Follow that link (which is the same as this one) and read the short (very short) story. Go ahead - it's funny, and I'll wait.

{break while I took a gentle introspective shower}

What media will actually support such high-data-rate requirements? At the storage-device end, we'll probably have those nifty tera/peta-byte capacity 3-D optical media I was reading about. For transmission through the ether, imagine our own little MASER beams following us around from high-altitude balloons or satellites - no interference to worry about this way...

Okay, that last idea, though perfectly explainable, was poorly enough explained that probably made little sense to anyone whose brain-waves aren't exactly in phase with mine. Which is a good cue for me to stop writing this futurama crap and go do something productive.

Only about 2 hours left now before I'd have to get up anyway. May as well read Batman...


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