I approach writing this letter with timid apprehension. I fear that my experience and expressive abilities may not live up to the solemnity of this moment. Nonetheless, I know that this ritual must serve the content of this letter and not the other way around.
You are many, substantially different and mostly unknown to me. Keeping you all in mind while writing is impossible. At any one time, my memory can surface only a few of your unique quirks and preferences. The same must happen to any of you when you think of me. Even this letter, which encloses my experience here, will fall into your hermetic subconsciouses and emerge only from time to time.
As I approach the end of my time, my job is now to offer you useful information that I derived from my experience. This is why I wish I could keep all of your idiosyncrasies in mind at once and offer knowledge that satisfies as many of them as I can. I ask myself if we could build a machine that overcomes our constrained minds and maximises the satisfaction of a multifaceted audience? During my time I haven’t encountered any obvious reason for why it would not be possible. I also failed to envision how to do it with good odds of working. Artists and entertainers are good examples to follow but I did not attempt to decode their practices.
Our quirks, minds and behaviours intrigued me profoundly during my time here. The machines we build and how we use them to interface ourselves and one another also captured my attention for a great deal of time. Whether we could build a machine that maximises the satisfaction of a multifaceted audience is not a random question that popped up only as I wrote this letter but a recurring theme in my thoughts.
Why should we pursue imagining and developing machines that we can use to interface ourselves and one another? What could we get out of it? What benefits does this endeavour entail that I should make you aware of? The greatest reason emerges from our daily lives. Interacting with ourselves and one another is perhaps the activity we spend the most time on.
During the first part of my time here I experienced a gradual loss of engagement with all types of purposes. This is not something initially obvious to our new joiners but is by now ingrained in the threads of our lives here. Guided by brave philosophers, we have abandoned the pursuit of greater meaning and turned our attention to the daily and real. Thus, I have gradually come to value the idea of exploring further what makes up for a great part of our experience here: our interactions with ourselves and with one another.
However, I have lived at a peculiar time. During my time, the gradual disappearance of grandiose purpose accompanied the technological emergence of endless and unimaginable possibilities. In the old times, our imagination of gods and myths ran wild while our means and ends evolved at a painstakingly slow and constraining pace. During my time here the tables turned. An explosion of technological possibilities turned our imagination into the biggest bottleneck of our evolution.
Hence I care about sharing with you the pursuit of developing machines that we can use to interface ourselves and one another. Because it ties together our vibrant technological capabilities with the fluctuant but persistent meaning of sharing our conscious experiences. This was my primary reason for pursuing it.
After providing you with the benefits that you may derive from this pursuit, my job is to describe to you how to proceed: what have I tried, what worked and what failed. Sadly, I made little progress on this front. I spent most of my time seeking a strong way to make progress in this direction but failed to take the necessary steps.
Knowing what blocked me could help you and so I will share it. I learnt too late that our interactions are a space and not a direction. I didn’t focus on one specific problem about our interaction worth solving. I haven’t picked one specific constraint of our interactions worth easing. Our interactions have countless motives and it was not clear to me which ones required change and which didn’t. I only played with abstract ideas which condemned me to limited progress.
In my late days, I encountered some ways to have more specific progress and I offer them to you hoping that choosing among them may allow you to make more progress than me. Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMIs) immediately come to mind. Their purpose is to reduce the delay in information transfer between a human and a computer. Another interesting area of work is Virtual Reality (VR). The focus of VR is to reduce the gap between offline and online experiences, making virtual words more and more similar to the immersive experience of physical reality. In this way, we may be able to have vivid experiences of custom realities and share them with anyone from around the world.
Similar to VR, I have come across interesting experiments in Mixed Reality (MR). Practitioners of MR are attempting to mix computing with the physical objects that surround us every day such as floors, walls and furniture. Differently from VR, MR’s goal is to build upon the existing reality and enhance it by overlaying onto it a digital layer. These are three areas worth pushing forward to ease the constraints of our current interaction. Sadly, I have limited knowledge to offer you about each of these as I only contemplated them from afar and remained stuck in my reflections and personal struggles.
What else can I offer you? Not much else comes to mind. Technology changed at a fast pace before my eyes and the technical knowledge is already decaying. You can easily acquire the same knowledge autonomously. You can also easily notice that everything you experience here is very peculiar to you and most of what you learn is specific and useful to yourself only. Given our blurred instructions, many of us think that we are sent here to help the world, but actually even helping just one person is okay. And it’s okay if that person is you.
Best of luck