People say you see your life flash before your eyes in the moment you think you might die. That wasn’t the case for me, the only thing I noticed was the smell of grass.
I was 6 years old. In the small town in Tanzania where I grew up there was a man called Bwakila. He was a cray, madman. One day I was walking home from school with a friend. There was a man walking down the road. A man walking with a machete, which wasn’t quite common around there. But we noticed it was Bwakila. My friend that this was a smart time to provoke him.
Bwakila gets a different face and starts chasing us. Fight or flight. You think before you think. My attention span was filled with grass, as that was my escape route. This is also called tunnel vision.
The information coming into your attention space is very limited. Attention is zero-sum. Attention in one place is poverty in another. We often take for granted how much information is normally being ignored.
All information spaces have a factor that limits their bandwidth. Your attention span is limiting. There is a pretty constant amount of processing power in your head.
Human attention doesn’t scale.
How can we maximize our attention. With more devices that are connected every day. What happens when the rest of the world gets onto social media.
If we cannot manage our attention, we can fall of the cliff. Stephen Wiltshire is mute since his youth and severely autistic at 3 years old. He was knighted at 32 because he was brilliant. He draws photo-realistic drawings from his memory. Why can he do what we can’t. Those who study autistic say we just perceive as much as he can, but as he lacks some things his attention is bigger in other parts. He remembers and sees it all. it comes at a cost though. If attention is a scarce commodity, that means that the amount of attention he is paying diminishes the capacity on other things. It’s a capacity of our bodies that we forget a lot of things. it’s a proxy, a firewall.
If we can build user interfaces that don’t make us fall of a cliff. We need to know ho we got here.
Moore’s law is an observation that the amount of computing power tends to double every 2 years. Computers aren’t getting faster, they’re getting a lot faster a lot faster. What’s hard to grasp are the consequences. It’s not about computers doing more things, just being faster.
Because everybody has a computer in pocket that can determine location, it enables you to build a service that disrupts taxi services. Netflixing of tv. Amazon. Spotify.
Telephone numbers have changed, it used to be kind of an address. If you’d call me at a certain time, we could agree to have a conversation. It was the social protocol of telephones. But this changed with mobile, and the need of location disappeared.
Computers are like the bicycles of the minds. Just apply force, and computers take us further. The blue line is our attention capacity. This has staid the same in contrast to computational power. At a certain point computers are sending signals faster than we can process them. We would go into Google and search. The information is pushed now in streams and notifications. All of this is run by algorithms. Who, where, when, what you want. We are the bottleneck.
We used to do time-sharing. Go to a computer, enter your query, and go to do other things and get back to get the result. Now they are much faster. Optimized to advertise. Now it’s them waiting on us. Will we do something with what computers push to us.
If your phone turned off this month, it was probably by accident (Some exceptions left aside 😉 ).
Computers communicate with us through notifications. on average we receive 60 notifications a day. facing a usability cliff to our attention.
The biggest spam bot ever is the internet.
We can’t go back. You can forget something, but you always come back somewhere else.
What do our bodies do if there is too much information for us? They help us reduce the load by doing more work and trying harder. Switching of notifications was a quite crude way to do things. I put my phone on the table and set it on silent and had a conversation. Half an hour later I came back and had a lot of signals. if it is too much information, it’s just noise. You don’t know anymore what’s more important.
You won’t know if something important has happened until you spit through it all.
Theoretically we have Bluetooth and telephones can communicate together. In theory it can now know that friends are in a cafe talking, so it should know it is not important for you at the moment. You need to queue and group and snooze the notifications.
Maybe at 7 o’clock alone at home the phone should push the messages. Most of them shouldn’t have been there in the first place (isn’t that the users fault too?). At most a notification that your house is on fire should be popping up.
What would it take to make a phone think for me? The phone needs to know me much better. My identity.
My body knows I want to go home and see mom and not being hacked apart by a madman.
“The first company to fully execute on embedding your identity into your phone making a truly first class experience wins the next decade.”
This is not your identity: your contacts, user account, password. etc.
Identity is how a user manages their attention.
We could have almost the same followers and the same handle (nickname) but still be totally different persons.
The people who get my attention at the office are my colleagues. at the dinner table it’s family.
We need a program or code to measure our attention.
The best place to manage attention is the OS. Apps can only see a part of what you do.
We have a central OS that manages our whole body, not only what the eye sees.
Some players are at an advantage, because they already have operating systems. Facebook for example knows they’re not an OS, but they have a huge amount of data. Facebook Home is a take over of your homepage but it didn’t work out. But their messaging app does. It’s a separate run time on top of your phone. controlling your attention stream.
once you’ve enabled the platform to know information it has this creep factor. Privacy is a misalignment of a user interface. There is not enough transparency of what is happening with your information.
Just because a bank has your wealth doesn’t mean they own it. What if we can decide what information to share with who. What if information was our property. That would take the creep factor a bit away.
Alan Key – Programming is literacy. Programming, anybody can do it. There is a limit to how many people in Palo Alto can learn about our lives.
What if instead of programming we can create filters. This is why we created object oriented programming. one of the worst things is state and it being scattered.
They requested money from the US government to reinvent programming. Taking away the silos. Taking away the barrier of entrance. Take away the creep factor.
Apps are not pushing notifications, but you can write subroutines. Allowing you to group information. What if you could write an algorithm that would not disturb you if you’re in a cafe. The hardest part about Moore’s law is the implications.
Identity is a layer in software. Your information will always be in the client, and your phones are the thin clients. Where do these things fit in. Think beyond the horizon. Lots of challenges, but it’s a great way to build things that are of great value.
The impossible is the inevitable.