Siri: Please Dispose of my Mouse and Keyboard

| Hidden Dimensions

“History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside. ” — John F. Kennedy

Siri on the iPhone is a game changer, but does it also portend a change on the Macintosh side? It won’t be long before gestures plus voice completely eliminate the mouse and keyboard, and if you think you can’t fine-tune text that way, leave it to Apple engineers to prove you wrong. But how will Apple get there? How will the Mac evolve?

I think it was 2004 when I was on the Apple campus for a meeting. Dr. Kim Silverman and I had bumped into each other in the lobby of 1 Infinite Loop, and he wanted to show me the latest in voice recognition technology at Apple. I had some time, so I accompanied him to his office.

The first thing he did after he opened his office door was, as he was hanging up his coat, turn to his Mac and say, “Mac, open my e-mail.”

Dr. Kim Silverman is Apple’s voice recognition guru. And ever since then, I have sensed that Apple has been itching for a breakthrough in this technology.

Fast forward to the year 2149*, at least as shown on Fox’s new Monday night show, Terra Nova

Here’s what the computer in the medical lab looks like.

terra Nova

Source: Terra Nova on Fox Broadcasting Co.

I turned to my wife and said: “We won’t have to wait until the year 2149. That’s what my office will look like in five years.” I note that there is no mouse or keyboard on the table, and while it’s just a TV show vision, it’s a compelling one.

Reading the Customer - Literally

It’s fairly easy to see how the future is going to go with Siri and without the venerable mouse. I can even imagine the keyboard being threatened more quickly than I had thought. Here’s why. In the past, technology development was solely the brain child of a researcher or two and allowed to fail or succeed by luck or happenstance. Nowadays, technology development is also driven by the feedback companies get on the Internet directly from our devices because of embedded feedback mechanisms.

For example, your text input to Siri is uploaded to an Apple server and processed there. That’s why you’ll see Siri say, “Sorry, I’m having trouble with the network connection.” when the Siri system is overloaded, as it was on the morning of October 17. (I’m wondering if Apple now regrets getting out of the supercomputer business.) Also, for years, Apple has been collecting utilization profiles in Snow Leopard and now Lion.

As a by-product, Apple obtains a lot of insight into both our habits and our interests. That allows Apple to push the technology forward in ways that appeal to us, but which are often not evident even to astute observers of Apple. That knowledge base drives Apple’s future directions. It’s one of Apple’s secrets to success**.

That’s why, by the way, you shouldn’t pay any attention to technical columnists who argue that the keyboard and mouse are essential and won’t ever go away.

The Impact of Siri

We know that Siri is really better for those mobile systems that have tiny keyboards. The tiny virtual keyboards on the iPhone were essential before Siri, but may soon become an afterthought. Will they be there in the future? How does the direction users are taking on the incredibly popular iPhone and iPad influence Apple’s thinking about the Mac? Should Siri be ported to the Mac and allowed to become dominant there for, say, dictation and e-mail? How much time does a typical user, who isn’t a writer, spend typing? Already, we’ve seen how there’s been a shift from e-mail to Twitter and text messaging, easily handled by Siri.

Here’s my analogy. The brilliance of the iPad is that there is a subset of tasks that average customers engage in. They browse the Internet. They send e-mails. They read tweets. They order and read digital books. They watch videos. They don’t need to write Java code or install printer drivers. The iPad encapsulates what most users need to do.

In a similar vein, the feedback Apple is getting from its devices is probably telling (or will tell) Apple that the mouse and keyboard are also a dying species.

Going Forward by Going Backwards?

Certainly the Mac has the horsepower to run Siri, but look at the sales numbers. Apple is only recently selling four million Macs in a quarter, 13 weeks. Over the weekend, the company sold four million iPhone 4S’s. Regarding Siri, one of our TMO editors opined, “Well, the Mac certainly seems to be an afterthought.”

All of a sudden, I’m wondering whether it makes sense to do a retro install of iOS technologies, like Siri, into the Mac. Or maybe, based on customer data, it makes better sense to just move forward swiftly with iOS. Yet there is uncertainty. We see in OS X Lion Apple’s attempt to instill a few of the best iOS technologies, but is that a vision of the future? Or a band-aid to shore up Mac sales and differentiate from the classic PC in the short term?

How would customers react to a future iMac that’s a vertical slab of beautiful, transparent glass, but has no keyboard or mouse? Would that be too much of a shock? Should the goal be to preserve the Mac line by forcing new iOS technologies back into it, or let the Mac evolve in a more natural way?

I recently saw an Apple patent application for a rotating screen on a MacBook. I can imagine a future MacBook Air in which, when the display is open, runs OS X with a keyboard. But when it’s closed, display side out, it runs iOS like an iPad. I see the patent not as a definite product but an attempt by Apple to cover its bases as it struggles with this OS transformation.

Charting the Future

When I look at the display on Terra Nova I’m not sure, in a whimsical, literary way, that I see a Mac. Will there come a time when we sense that the Mac is being left behind just because it’s not the right platform for energetic work in the post-PC era? Will the extreme popularity of Siri drive Apple to bring it to the Mac or the converse: to focus on iOS to exclusion because of Apple’s evolving vision for the future? Apple has tended to do that in the past, always, relentlessly leaving the past behind. Without Steve Jobs, this is the challenge faced by Apple executives.

Terra Nova

Source: Terra Nova on Fox Broadcasting Co.

My gut feeling is that there will be a future Apple family of gesture and voice-based flat displays. Some will be carried around in your pocket, like an iPhone; some will be carried around in your hand or lab coat pocket, like an iPad and some will bristle with light and color on the desktop like the photos above.

None of them will have mice or keyboards. I’m betting they won’t be traditional Macs.


* Which is really 85 million BCE in the show. Got that?

** Is Apple back on track for Knowledge Navigator? It’s an obsession for some, ancient history to be forgotten for others.

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A keyboard/mouse may not be there in the future, but I bet there will be some sort of silent input mode - not voice. With a voice only computer, not only would our environments have to change (try talking to a computer in a sub shop cash register), but our social morays would have to change as well. I’d never talk to my iPhone in an elevator, in an airplane, or in a meeting. However, I have done so silently in all of these situations.

Just a thought…


Tried Siri at home, car and in my work cubicle. All environments didn’t work as it was too noisey. At home, Siri kept adding words from the TV on my desk and she just could not translate “open BARK email BARK” with my dog baking at the guinea pigs across the room. At work or in the car, Siri kept confusing the radio as continuations of my commands.

Sorry, but I foresee many more years of touchscreens in my future…


I bought my wife the iPhone4s on Sunday, and she loves the phone however.  Here’s the problem with Siri tho.. it’s a cute gimmick.. ‘whats the meaning of life’ has an interesting comeback.. or ‘where is my wife’ it remembers who your spouse is.. it’s humorish.. however, Actual usage.. while trying to get directions, it states it can’t find the network.. it’s clumsy.. and kinda juvenile..

She said it best.. it’s like asking your 5 year old for directions…or asking your 5 year old to answer an important question.  It’s going to be wrong alot, or totally unusable.

It’s neat, but I’ll keep my keyboard and mouse..


At the risk of sounding like someone stuck in the present (what’s the word for that?), I just don’t see keyboards going away soon. The biggest reason is that I don’t think people want to be talking to their computers all day long. Or even just when they get home to check email check email.
But I’ve often wondered: Is that just because we don’t do that now?

John Martellaro

Of course, the question is not, Where is Siri now?  The question is, Where is Siri taking us? And what will be Apple’s response to the customer embrace of Siri?

Lee Dronick

With a voice only computer, not only would our environments have to change (try talking to a computer in a sub shop cash register),

My wife lost her hearing, but had two Cochlear implants and has regained at least 80% of hearing. The processors for the implants have several user settings in addition to on/off. She can choose to suppress sounds at a distance and focus on nearby conversations, or the other way around. How well it works I can not answer as I have never experienced it. Anyway, if that technology is doable in an over-the-ear hearing aid size device then it is should be doable in an iPhone.

Getting back to the subject of keyboards and other input devices. I think that we have them around for a long time, but will soon have the option of Siri input on Macs.


Siri is great but it’s not for a computer which has a different function than an iOS device

Imagine voice input in a cube land office with a dozen or more other users also talking to their computers? It would be deafening. How about one office AH that waits until you’re gone and then whispers over the wall “delete paragraph. Type: Mr Smith is a jerk”. It might even have legal ramifications. Someone might challenge a contract or a will based on the fact that it could not be PROVEN that the person actually dictated what was in it.

I am a writer. The last thing I want is to dictate my next 80,000 word book. I also use the written word to organize my thoughts. I regularly type a letter, chapter, or blog entry and then start moving sentences and paragraphs around. No good way to do that with voice input. Lastly I’ve been using my iPod Touch in the middle of the night to record my ideas. With the iPT I don’t need a pencil or paper or to turn on the light. I can wake the device (with the screen set to dimmest) and type in (with clicks set to silent) my plot idea without waking SWMBO. That wouldn’t work with voice dictation input. Even worse if I’m writing a romantic scene between the main character and someone named Sally.

I also do graphics, drawing, and paintings on my computer. How will voice input work for that? Not very amenable to telling the computer what to do, is it? (OK Siri take a number 2 pencil start a line 1.275 inches up and 3.254 inches left from the lower right corner. No not there, a little to the left, more, more, too far. Now draw a line from there in a meandering path kinda toward the up[per right and then loop around a bit to make a hook like the one I saw last Xmas in the shepherds hand at the school play.) Yeah that’ll work. How about iMovie editing? Don’t see any way to do that either.

Every few years somebody has said that voice input will replace the keyboard and mouse. I just don’t see that happening.


There is another constraint on the proliferation of Siri and the elimination of the keyboard and other physical input devices, and that is the tremendous server-side processing demand of Siri.  And that demand has several aspects.  First, and the easiest, though still difficult, is simply provisioning the server infrastructure to get Siri up and running.  Already, we’ve seen some hiccups with Siri that are probably related to insufficient server capacity to handle Siri’s load just on the iPhone 4S.  So it is clear that, even if Apple wants to, and I suspect that it very much wants to, bring Siri to the iPad, Apple TV, and then to its OS X devices, it will be a long while before Apple has sufficient server capacity to do that even in here, much less in its major international markets.  Will Sire come to other iOS and then OS X devices?  Yes, but only as quickly as Apple can deploy server capacity to ensure that Siri is up 99.999999% of the time.

The other major infrastructure problem is that Siri must be localized for each culture where it operates.  That includes not language but version of language; customs, laws, social taboos, and the kind of common sense intelligence that an AI system, like Siri, has to possess to work well.  And all of that and more is different for each culture.  And some important nations, think India, have several cultures and languages.  This stuff present both a daunting software engineering challenge that goes beyond mere code to coding for culture and a server implementation challenge as each cultural version of Siri at least must have its own dedicated memory space, if not its own dedicated server farms.

And finally, for each of its new capabilities/services, Siri requires connection to specialized databases.  For example, I doubt that Siri’s current databases would provide much, if any, functionality to Apple TV, which will require everything from TV guides to access to content.  And we all know how much fun it is to negotiate a deal with the content providers.  The bottom line is that Apple must cut deals and provision its servers to support at least access to more and more specialized databases to make Siri even smarter.

Any of the three forging tasks alone would be enough to test the metal of the most able company, taken together, it means that Siri, thus, represent a tremendous operational challenge, as it is rolled out across cultures and across the full range of Apple’s devices and markets.  But fortunately for Apple, one of the strengths of its current CEO is that he is a master, if not a genius, of operations.  John has written persuasively of how Apple’s new leaders must use their particular strengths to substitute for the different aspects of the late Steve Jobs’ genius.  They must find in themselves individually and collectively those skills that can not only supply the deficiency of Steve’s absence but bring new talents to running Apple that even Steve didn’t have.  That means that Apple’s new leaders have the opportunity enhance Apple in ways it wouldn’t have been enhanced under Mr. Jobs.  Well, operations is one of those talents that has always been Mr. Cook’s tour de force, and he will now have to bring his particular talents to bear on figuring out how to implement Siri across all of Apple’s platforms and in the cultures of all of Apple’s markets.  And I can’t think of any CEO who is better suited to that task than Tim Cook.

So Siri is great, revolutionary stuff.  Yet Apple will have to be at the top of its game to make Siri run well and reliably on all of Apple’s platforms and in all of Apple’s markets.  This will almost certainly mean that Apple must carefully and, unfortunately, slowly roll Siri out across its other platforms, with OS X platforms probably being the last to get Siri, and carefully and slowly roll Siri out in the other cultures where Apple markets its devices.  As a result, Apple will be hiring lots of local engineers and experts on local culture, and I think that we will see Apple using its cash to build massive server facilities in other parts of the world.  And it may mean that in regions of political instability or hostile environment where Apple can’t operate according to its principles or where server capacity would be at risk of government interference or seizure , Siri will be provisioned outside of certain regional markets or even not at all.

Siri is AI on a massive scale that is a whole new ballgame that requires a whole new server-side, data center ballpark.  The first such ballpark is Apple’s data center in Madien, North Carolina.  Siri will remain beta ware, even after its code base is ready for the U.S. and Canada, while Apple learns how to do Siri in the first of its new massive data centers.

Mike Weasner

Back years ago when Speech Recognition was introduced on the Macintosh (using Applescripts), I enabled it.  It was fun to say “get email” and have Emailer grab my email.  I even opened documents for editing in Word or Excel.  However, the usefulness, if there ever was any for me, wore off pretty quickly.  And I haven’t used Speech Recognition on the Mac since.

I played with the Voice Control on my iPhone 4 when I first got it in 2010 but have only used Voice Control a couple of times since then.

So, I’m not convinced that speaking to my devices is ever going to be useful for me.

However, if the day comes when I can say “open that image I took of M31 last night, crop it to show just the galaxy, enhance it to bring out the dark lanes, and post it on my web site Galaxies photo album” then Voice Control will be useful.


doubt that Siri?s current databases would provide much, if any, functionality to Apple TV,

Nemo, you must not have an Apple TV. It’s practically a dumb terminal waiting for you to control it from your iPhone/iPad. Many enhancements that your iPhone gets will benefit your Apple TV.

Otherwise, great insight. smile


Subvocalization may develop some relevance. I think that in terms of adaption (that is, how Siri adapts to use scenarios), Apple is poised to be able to make some giant leaps fairly quickly, since all Siri input is going to a set of central servers. While that can be a scary proposition, I think the end result will be rapidly improving understanding as millions of people fail multiple times daily in their attempts to have Siri perform the correct action. Apple has instantaneously grown the feedback loop by at least an order of magnitude if not by multiple orders of magnitude.


Dear brett_x:  Note that Apple TV runs iOS and that Apple can easily put its A5 and its upcoming quad-core A6 in Apple TV, so Apple can easily design Apple TV to not only be an enhanced set-top box but to do everything that the iPhone 4S and the upcoming iPad 3 can and will be able to do.  I think that is Apple’s plan for Apple TV, at which point it will become more than a hobby.  But all things at the right time, and nothing before it is ready to provide a great user’s experience.


I am already spoiled by Siri.  Over half of all my text messages and emails are dictated to Siri, and most of my incoming messages are read by Siri.  I often wait till I am away from other people (in my car, behind a closed office door, etc.) to send a message just so I don’t have to type it.  I resent every instance where I actually have to type a message.  I do believe that Siri, Dragon, and other speech recog tech will become more prevalent in the future, even ubiquitous. 

That being said, there will always be a place for keyboards, especially in certain environments, especially where discretion in entering data is needed.  However gesture and voice will likely become the dominant interfaces in the future…  at least until someone develops direct neural input… then all bets are off.  wink


And John, Apple?s iOS and OS X devices will keep their physical inputs, if for no other reason than that Apple doesn?t want to leave its users with bricks on those inevitable occasions when Siri is unavailable.  And, as Gridley1 comments, supra, discretion is also a reason for keeping physical inputs.

Can you imagine being back in you old job at Apple and telling the CTO of the NSA that all of his people would have to utter their inputs to their Apple devices aloud?

John Martellaro

All of a sudden, everyone seems to have forgotten about Bluetooth headsets.

Lee Dronick

All of a sudden, everyone seems to have forgotten about Bluetooth headsets.

Until my iPhone 4s arrives I am still Siriless and can’t try it, but can you whisper commands into a mic?


John:  Bluetooth headsets won’t work as an input device on those occasions when Siri isn’t available or when discretion is needed.  When Siri isn’t available, an iOS device with Siri as its only UI input is a brick with a bluetooth headset.

Dave Sobel

Think everyone is losing sight of the long term—this isn’t today, or even tomorrow… but the future.  If you’d been asked 15 or 20 years ago if you could carry a computer in your pocket, with access to all the knowledge everywhere… you would have said “I’ll never have that.”

But now we call it our smartphone.

Great post, John.  This is a significant step towards a future I also see.


The biggest reason is that I don?t think people want to be talking to their computers all day long.

I kind of agree. Another problem is that thinking and talking are so natural together where inflection stands in place for strict grammar. Being careful, speaking grammatically and thinking for a serious report would slow you down quite a bit. And how do you make corrections? Would it be any faster than fingers and mouse / touchpad?

Typing and thinking I suspect may be less encumbering on the brain cells than watching the hockey game or doing choices whilst minding a child. We do not do events in true multitasking, and in a second an accident can occur if awareness lags. The heart and breath and even a quick scratch to an itch are not elective since another part of the brain processes these needs so elective processes can continue, undisturbed, thinking activities are elective. But thought actions are completed by many starts and stops to get any minor job completed.

Typing, thinking, correcting and proofreading would be four activities we already do at the typewriter very efficiently but there is a limit to speed and accuracy when speaking is involved. Taking away typing would relieve some pressure but then grammar would enter the picture for inflection doesn?t carry to the page; unless Siri can translate and transcribe inflections.

Listening to the news and typing an email does not give you all the news.Typing and thinking seem to one process we can do together but I suspect it isn?t so. Switching between formulated ideas and typing is going on.

And unless the Siri has something special for correcting which involves returning, going forward, removing and adding text and space, other than general notes, I suspect the keyboard will be around for a while yet.

Gareth Harris

We’ve heard all this before:

“The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty?a fad.”
- Advice from a president of the Michigan Savings Bank to Henry Ford’s lawyer Horace Rackham.

?There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.?—Ken Olsen

Scotty on Star Trek:

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
[faced with a 20th century computer]
Scotty: Computer! Computer?
[He’s handed a mouse, and he speaks into it]
Scotty: Hello, computer.
Dr. Nichols: Just use the keyboard.
Scotty: Keyboard. How quaint.

Lee Dronick

Siri could be handy as an alternative to keyboard commands. “Command Vee”

As to dictating text, it might help you focus on the task at hand.

John Martellaro

Gareth: Oh, yes, indeed.


Yes Gareth. The same happened from quill to pen to typewriter to computer and now to voice. We are children of our times but voice is so dramatically different from data entering by hand. It isn?t commands or quick notes or diaries that will be the most difficult for such a transition. It will be the creative effort. I can remember older authors who hand?t transitioned to the computer in the mid 90?s. Now that I found strange.

I do think it will come round, but it will be the youth, the young creative spirits who will find it intuitive. Well, I suspect John will make the transition, and Ted.

Me, no. I like to ponder and processes and procrastinate when I write. When I talk, it?s hard to stop me, so says wife.


I just don’t agree. Voice is good for quick commands but not for content creation. It’s too linear. The example I had above for trying to draw with voice show it isn’t going to work. Writers for centuries have cut and pasted, moving sentences and paragraphs around to refine what they wanted to say. First it was done with scissors and glue before rewriting or retyping. That’s how writing is done. Computers let people do this in a more simple way, but it’s still an intrinsic part of writing. Voice input is fine for a first draft but not for anything too long. Not for anything where precise phrasing is critical. Suppose if you say here when you needed to say there. Suppose Siri or it’s descendants type there rather than they’re. You need a keyboard to fix that. Oh I suppose you could say “Siri, on page 12 paragraph three, sentence nine,  change the fourth word to the contraction for they are” but I think it will be a lot easier just to click on it and type. And then there’s editing video. You need to select clips and move the around. You can do this with a keyboard and mouse. You can do this with a touch screen. You can’t do this with voice input.

Voice is good for SOME things but like many things before it won’t replace everything. TV did not completely replace radio. VCRs did not replace TV. Voice input will not replace they keyboard because like radio and TV there will always be a need for them.


Dear mhikl:  I am not sure that any rigorous research does or will support your view that dictation will somehow diminish or interfere with either thinking or creative work.  Both typing and dictation require mental resources.  Do the resources required by dictation have a greater negative impact on thinking than typing?  Your off-the-cuff musing on that question are hardly dispositive of the issue.

I had a colleague who never learned to type, so he either wrote his briefs longhand or dictated them.  He viewed them as equivalent, as long as he was working from his outline, where he had organized and structured his argument.  But he thought that dictating a short work extempore was just fine.  If he had a complaint about dictation, it was that he couldn’t dictate a long work extempore without having to heavily revise and edit that work.  But when he wrote a long work extempore in longhand, it too had to be revised, but with writing, he could do a lot of that editing as he wrote.

I, however, was just young enough to have learned to type in college and law school, on a device that you’ve probably never seen, called a typewriter.  So I came to the law typing, easily took to composing on word processors and then computers’ office suites, and never was comfortable with dictating, not even from an outline.  So whether dictation works better or worse for a person may simply come down to what they learned on.  Mhikl, your mother’s milk was probably typing, but your children or slightly older children may one day have fond remembrances of old Mhikl, who was never quite comfortable with dictation.

What does my experience, supra, say to me about dictation?  That dictation will certain be fine for short works and will probably be fine for longer works, provided that one has organized his thoughts in an outline or in his mind.  Indeed, as you say, supra, thought and speech naturally go together, so much so, in fact, that some of the greatest works of literature, e.g., the Iliad and the Odyssey, very long works indeed, were created and were maintained for hundreds of years as oral works of story telling, and were handed down solely by dictation.  I think that says quite a lot in dictation’s favor. On that basis, one might even argue that dictation is an aid to creative thought.


@geoduck - the point the article was making was that voice and gesture would be the future interface, and only the keyboard would go away.  Touching the word/sentence/paragraph you want to change then speaking the new text is considerably faster and easier than typing it (I have done so for over a year using Dragon Dictation on the iPhone).

@all -
In my previous post I said emphatically that there would always be a place for keyboards, but I do want to be clear that I mean they will remain, in the future, as a tertiary interface… the dominant interfaces will be gesture and voice. Also, the keyboard of the future may only be on a touch screen or projected on a nearby surface… only to be used as the need arises.

As for dictation’s effect on the creative process, that depends on the individual, but many will find it easier and helpful.  Most doctors and lawyers already dictate their long reports, as do many business people, though usually they are still manually transcribed by a service or secretary.  Having efficient voice input will improve that process.

If you are writing a sonnet instead of a stock report, dictation can still be a benefit.  Speech can tap more directly into the creative mind.  Voice input can be used for a stream of consciousness style creative process, which can then be edited and polished later by a combination of voice and gesture… or keyboard if the individual finds it more comfortable.

Useful tools never completely go away.  In the age of keyboards and mice we still use pens and pencils, even chalk.  The automobile did not totally replace the bicycle, and even the horse is occasionally used.  Our local Sheriff’s Department has a mounted division which is frequently used to patrol areas of the county inaccessible by vehicle.  In a future world dominated by voice and gesture, the keyboard will still have a place, even if it is a lesser one.

...but what of the mouse?  Hmmm… the plot thickens.


Each writer finds his own tools and uses them to best effect that his skill permits.  For some those tools will include Siri and dictation, for others not.

joe mommie

the pentagon is already testing an acoustic software targeting system that can filet out noise to pinpoit where gun fire is coming from, this type of algorithm can easily be applied to a siri like application…


While John is talking about the future, I’m not sure that voice recognition is ready for prime time yet.  I’ve been using Dragon Dictation a lot on my iPod Touch 4G and it can be very good or very frustrating, depending on what words you use. Some words it just doesn’t recognize or misspells horribly, regardless of your pace, diction or volume. The word envy consistently comes out as “and he”, while contempt always comes out ” Comptempt “, misspelled and capitalized; predators ironically becomes “credit scores.”

Sometimes it seems as if it were programmed by people who flunked 9th grade English, or as if the app has been hacked by eveldooers (sic). Or perhaps we are actually dictating to people with poor grammar & spelling skills, who are typing furiously to catch what we are saying, trying to type the gist of it while missing some words completely. YMMV.

Lee Dronick

The word envy consistently comes out as ?and he?, while contempt always comes out ? Comptempt ?, misspelled and capitalized; predators ironically becomes ?credit scores.?

Dialects, speech impediments, colds, and other things that can affect pronunciation will be a problem for some time to come.


I have had this article saved for later reading (I find that new feature in Safari rather handy) so this might come a bit late, but although I work mostly with graphics and illustration, I also write, mostly for that huge, virtual drawer known as blogs, but still. Words have always been important to me.

Geoduck mention some aspects of it but I just wanted to add some more thoughts upon what effects it probably will have on our cognitive faculties over time, if writing will fade away and be replaced by the spoken word only.

But first, let me just say that I do not worry so much about drawing and video edtiting on a device since that can be done with touch. Of course, computers will have to change because of that because we cannot sit and stretch out to monitors which sit in front of us, but that is a minor problem.

But text. One of the main reasons why I always have been writing, is because I have found it to be a very efficient way to organise and clear up my thoughts. The act of translating your flow of thoughts into written text, be it by pen or keyboard, on paper or monitor, creates a distance to the same flow and that distance is sometimes very valuable and needed.

I actually wonder if the process of writing text, hasn’t supported the development of human thinking from being more mythological and magic, towards rational and scientific. This doesn’t imply that human knowledge and insight were of a lesser quality earlier, like many today tend to believe, but it was different and limited to a few with the necessary insight and knowledge, an insight and knowledge which was acquired intuitively, not through reason.

Reason, together with science, has democraticised knowledge. Knowledge is now acessible to most, depending on the effort we are willing to put down in order to acquire it, with the exception of those who are handicapped in various ways, of course. But in general.

And yes, I suspect that the act of translating thoughts into written text has supported this development.

If I am correct in this, what would then happen if we will abandon written text and return to speech only?
At first, text will still be written but after our dictation. Thus, we will have taken one step away from the process of writing. The next step will perhaps be that written text will be limited to more technical topics and accounting, lists of items and goods etc.. like the first written texts we have found mostly are. The development will seem to be reversed but of course it won’t be, not totally. History seems to be repeating itself but that is on the surface.

The interesting question is still what will happen to our way of thinking and then to our perception, if we abandon written text.

Farfetched you may think, but I am quite convinced that it will change us over time.

John Martellaro

wilf53.  I’m not an expert in this area, but I suspect that your analysis is most astute. Tying how we think to how we communicate seems obvious, but you’re the first person to articulate this so nicely.  Thanks for a great contribution.

Lee Dronick

If I am correct in this, what would then happen if we will abandon written text and return to speech only?

It doesn’t have to be one or the other, it can be both. The person creating the work chooses the best way for them and some of people will play in both camps.


Well, John, you are far more of an expert than I am, so I can only bow my head and say thanks:)

And to Lee I can say that yes, I think you are right, of course. Text will linger on, at least in the future we are able to view, but still I think we might see a general decline in the use of text. It won’t disappear anytime soon and it will probably stay with us forever, but I think we will see a general shift here - and that may cause a mental shift as well.

A thought, at least:)

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