Asymptomatic

There must be intelligent life down here

About the Site

Hi! I'm Owen Winkler, and I write this drivel. This blog is about my own life and my random observations thereof. Sometimes I write about technical stuff here, but mostly that's at RedAlt. Please enjoy, or if not, click on my ads. Either is fine with me.

April 20, 2020 12:00am

External Brain

I recall some times back in college where I would play wingman to my roommate for his many female acquaintances. The situation reminds me a bit of some of those movies where there’s some dignitary or higher-up that has an assistant that remembers everyone’s name and position for them. For example, in The Devil Wears Prada, Anne Hathaway’s character attends a function with her boss, the titular “Devil”, and serves up the names of some of the party guests and reasons to talk to or dodge them.

I was listening to podcasts this morning, and as one podcast ended and rolled over to the next, it forced me to recall this situation. The next podcast was partially played, and so it started in the middle with no description of context. It took me several seconds to realize what I was listening to, and where it had left off.

I thought to myself, it would be interesting if there could be some voice that simply superimposes some contextual knowledge about what’s going on. This would be not just for podcasts but for all of life. Never forget why you went to the kitchen again! And instead of having to bounce back and forth between the recipe you left on the counter and the refrigerator, the voice would simply tell you what to pull out of the fridge next, and even tell you the next step. For advanced functionality, it could even figure out how to time things, so that your toast is properly cooked while you’re frying your eggs.

I wonder if you could provide your ongoing context via a camera to someone. You could wear a small camera over your ear, and it could broadcast video and audio to someone trusted, somewhere else. That person could take notes into some system that would allow them to instantly recall contextually useful information without prompting, or even specific information with prompting. Even if they needed some small amount of time, or had to be supported by some interesting AI-based systems, this could still be pretty handy.

I’m remembering now a recent Stephenson book, Fall; or Dodge in Hell, where some character (I forget the names — the book was mostly pretty terrible) actually had an assistant like this. I don’t recall how much sensory access that agent had to the person’s life, but it seemed pretty useful to have them around. I remember that the relationship between them was trusted and generational, much like a butler’s family might serve his household for generations.

Anyway, I wonder how much that service would be worth. Would it be worthwhile enough to employ someone who could stand a penny-on-the-dollar salary to provide this information? What sort of content would they be able to provide? How useful would it be?