Conjectures on the Future Orality of Human-Computer Interaction

As we speak more often to computers and they speak back, our interactions with other humans and the world could become increasingly:

1. Additive rather than subordinate

Systems will produce recognizable patterning in human activity through collection of data without limit. Rather than decide what data to save or trash, or in what ways to subordinate it, computers will save all data.

2. Aggregative rather than analytic

Following the natural language patterns of spoken discourse, oral-based human-computer interaction will necessarily involve clusters of parallel terms, phrases, clauses; also antithetical terms, phrases, clauses, and “epithets,” or fixed, preconstructed forms of “conversation,” which bound the range of human thought.

3. Redundant or “copious”

The continuity and coherence in both human and computer requires repetition of information and repeatability, ultimately lending itself to simplicity of expression, a lack of sophistication, and a command-based, goal-oriented worldview.

4. Conservative or traditionalist

Relationships between human and computer will repeat what’s known to both, or to what the computer can predict the human would want to know in whatever context.

5. Close to the human lifeworld

Computers have to present new or “theoretical” knowledge via analog to what’s already known, commonplace, or everyday to the human.

6. Agonistically toned

Primarily-spoken human-computer interaction fosters a sense of contest or sport between humans and computers. Humans challenge computers with increasingly difficult tasks, pit computer against computer(s), or ask computers to challenge them.

7. Empathetic and participatory rather than objectively distanced

Relationships between humans and computers–as well as between humans and humans–achieve closer social ties, but only achieve closer ties with other community members or systems who know like things, and hold like community members and like systems in common.

8. Homeostatic

Because computers can “know” vastly more than humans, interactions between humans and computers must maintain an equilibrium in their shared knowledge base by sloughing off or “forgetting” what’s irrelevant to the human and to their respective communities.

9. Situational rather than abstract

Classificatory systems for the human must be relatively non-abstract and non-syllogistic, since oral modes of discourse do not allow for sustained reflection. Strict definition, comprehensive accounts, or probing self or critical analysis will be resisted because of the limits of oral discourse itself, or thought superfluous since the answers are already provided.

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