Last week I spent two days at UX Australia, a conference that talks about user experience. (I work in UX.) This year there was lots of fodder for science fiction ideas as well, along with some old terms that seem to be making a comeback.
People grokked things. So much so that I felt like I was at a science fiction convention sometimes. Especially when another term that cropped up a lot was the singularity.
If you’re unfamiliar with either of these terms, both were coined by science fiction writers.
Grok comes from Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and is a term that means to understand intuitively.
The singularity comes from an essay by Vernor Vinge called Technological Singularity (1993). It’s a term that describes exponential technological change. At UX Australia the term was used more broadly, I felt. Mostly tech, but you could also say we’re reaching a singularity in climate change as well.
The conference is, and has been ever since I have been attending, heavy on ethics, which I like. It’s scary, because working in IT you can see how easily people’s rights are being, or can be, eroded. It’s good to go to big conferences and have people talk about the consequences.
Other big topics this year included designing for disability, and how far artificial intelligence has come without us even realizing it. We keep waiting for AI to arrive, but it’s already here, every time you talk to Siri, or Google Home, or turn on your keyless car.
Deep fakes. Oh, my goodness. They’re amazing. And they’re computer generated. You can create a person out of stored images. You can change them to have whatever attributes you like. Scary, though, if you’re looking at videos as a source of truth.