Made the switch to Mac OS X or planning to in the near future? Too bad. It’s yesterday’s news, as are all current operating system interfaces, according to computer scientist and entrepreneur David Gelernter. In a lengthy article at CIO Insight, Gelernter said he thinks “computers should imitate life” and that Mac and PC desktops should be replaced with a “narrative structure.”
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David Gelernter is a cofounder and chief technologist at Mirror Worlds Technologies Inc., a company that’s developed a software program that the scientist thinks offers just such a suitable replacement. According to CIO Insight, Mirror Worlds’ goal is to present all computer data (word-processing documents, e-mail, pictures, music, everything) as a stream of time-ordered files that can be reorganized instantly into substreams by topic.
“We wanted information to be arranged the way life is arranged, and life is a narrative,” Gelernter told CIO Insight. “There’s no way to live except moment by moment. Every human being has the experience of going from one moment to the next to the next, living a timeline with a past, present and future. That’s the universal skeleton key to how experience is organized and how memory is organized. If your information is stream structured, you’ve got to at least consider the possibility of treating the past as something you can deal with rather than unknown territory.”
However, traditionally user interfaces have always been thought of in spatial terms with the computer monitor used to represent information. In other words, they’re virtual representations of a physical desktop. Gelernter feels this was a good way to get started in information management, but now it’s time to evolve beyond it.
“The problem is that nothing ever changes,” he told CIO Insight. “Instead of reorganizing, instead of simplifying, instead of streamlining what we’ve got, we just add more paper to the pile and the pile totters higher and higher. I think the trends and currents that technologists seem to hit on today are retreads. The industry has managed to kill off a tremendous wave of excitement and enthusiasm and interest by its complacency and its unwillingness to broaden its focus and think about what actual users need from their computers as opposed to what great new features can be added to this already grossly overfeatured software package.”