Google Tap! A terrific Google spoof for April Fool's Day. Just imagine, writing two letters at once to two entirely different people, with only two buttons, while you're seated on the pot taking care of yet a third piece of important business. And perhaps a fourth, chewing a piece of Google Fiber! Available at www.gmail/tap and www.gmail.com/fiber. Well, the G-Fiber may already be sold out, or run to your local Apple Store. Get them while (if) they last.
There's a serious side to this spoof. If Google Tap is still in the offing and most of us are not about to relearn Morse Code, there are existing applications for our computers, iPads and "smart" phones that point in that direction. Nuance Communications, a large corporation which a recent article in the New York Times called "the leading force in voice technology, and the speech-recognition engine behind Siri, the virtual personal assistant on the Apple iPhone 4S," has also created an app called Dragon Go, and is hard at work on Dragon TV.
"Humans are wired for speech and tend to respond to talking devices as if they were kindred spirits, says Sherry Turkle, a professor of the social studies of science and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."
“I’m not saying voice recognition is bad,” Professor Turkle says. “I’m saying it’s part of a package of attachments to objects where we should tread carefully because we are pushing a lot of Darwinian buttons in our psychology.” A curious phrase to use in this context, but I suspect she means there is the possibility that if we spend more time talking with machines we'll spend less time talking with each other. And pushing those buttons could indeed be dangerous to human health and well-being, say to friendships, marriage, and parents and children, for starters.
Think of how many well-dressed men and women you've seen walking down the sidewalk talking into the air, more or less oblivious to their surroundings, or teenagers in a corner of a coffee shop huddled over their cell phones. I've been known to do it myself. Maybe more amusing than dangerous, but I think Professor Turkle is right: we should tread carefully and consciously.
Sven Birkerts writes in the current (April) issue of Poetry Magazine, “We are glued to our screens of all sizes not for amusement or business, but because we think something is going to be announced. We can’t bear to miss it,. We are waiting for the oppression of ’what’s next?’ to be lifted. We are, in a deeper sense, waiting for our poet.”