Wednesday, June 11, 2003

"Emoticons." Do I use 'em? A year ago, my answer would have been an emphatic "no." Now I find myself using a couple every once in a while, specifically




and occasionally even


to denote mock horror. My problem with communication-via-smiley-face is that some people essentially replace the written word with them. Ready-made animated icons have their place, but they're not a replacement for text.


In some of my science fiction stories, characters communicate with "eglyphics": animated, interactive hieroglyphs that inhabit ultra-thin flatscreens, turning the urban landscape into something like an enormous animated billboard as conceived by Bosch and Gibson. Some eglyphics are digital wildlife. Some can even change substrates and cling to human flesh in the form of cunning ornaments.

For some cool examples of eglyphic-like technology in action, see "Minority Report." I can't claim that Spielberg cribbed my ideas since the basic motif has been alive and well since at least the early 1980s (i.e., "Blade Runner" with its ubiquitous electronic screens and television monitors urging Earthlings to relocate to off-world colonies. And that smiling Asian woman, like Orwell's Big Brother transmogrified into a pill-popping geisha . . . )

Will a thoroughly "cyber" culture eventually devise a high-tech pictographic language? William Burroughs was keen on the idea. Making the switch from linear text to visual association blocks will likely require a fundamental shift in the way we think. We might alter our brains to facilitate information intake or have our brains retooled by the very process of absorbing association blocks.

Is technologically assisted meditation any better than the "real" thing? Does the brain care whether its user spends decades practicing or if s/he simply has access to the motherboard?

Information itself, arriving in unmatched density and increasing complexity, might be a no-kidding evolutionary catalyst. Sink or swim.

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