TECH TALK: The Best of Tech Talk 2005: Search, Memex and Mirror Worlds

Search is undoubtedly the big story of 2005. I wrote about The Future of Search in March, linking it to my earlier ideas of the Memex. I ended with the following comment: Some of the underlying ideas to execute the Memex may have changed, but the building blocks remain the same blogs, RSS and OPML. What is different is how we assemble these elements together. There is little doubt in my mind that the Web is due for an upgrade given the spurt in user-generated (folk) content and the rise of mobile phones. The Memex is what will emerge as Information Dashboards and Marketplaces become more popular. Thus, the future of Search lies in it enabling the creation of these new platforms to help us tackle a problem which has been with us for a long time lot of information and limited time. Finally, we have the tools at hand to tackle the challenges. Smarter Search is just a beginning, and the Memex is the endgame. Information Dashboards and Marketplaces make up the middle.

In an August Tech Talk entitled Internet Tea Leaves, I wrote about the Memex and Mirror Worlds:

The Memex (meaning memory extender) can be thought of as a sort of forget-me-not. Today, we use Google as the window to the world of information. But search is just one way to navigate the web. Consider the analogy with a printed book. A book has 3 ways to browse it: table of contents (think of this as a directory or outline), index (the equivalent of search), or jumping to a page (typing a specific URL or finding it, quite literally, via a bookmark). On the Web, the index/search option has become the primary mechanism.

What the Memex does is make possible the option of navigation via directories. Users can create their own trails through the web of information. Others can follow these trails. For example, if my passion is science fiction, I am likely to have created a set of links and comments on books and ideas which would also be relevant to others interested in that topic. Others can include my directory and build further. This is how the Memex can get constructed through the creation of millions of directories.

Mirror Worlds are, quite literally, a replica of what we see happening around us. With a mix of user-generated content from their mobiles along with webcams and sensors, it will be possible to almost recreate the real world in the Grid. Mirror Worlds are, thus, microcosms of all that we see around us as updated as the real world that they resemble. They are accessible to us through screens on the devices we have our mobiles, computers, and perhaps, networked TVs.
From an enterprise perspective, the equivalent of the Memex-Mirror World combo is the real-time enterprise. It is a theme that has been talked about for a long time. Software along with the access devices and complements like RFIDs will go a long way in making the RTE a reality.

In this context, my discussion on Mirror Worlds as part of the Tech Talk on Next-Generation Networks is worth repeating: Over the past decade, we have been spending an increasing amount of our time in so-called cyberspace. Companies and individuals have created virtual representations of their products and services. Our communications have also moved to conversing with identities (email IDs, IM monickers, SMSing to mobile numbers) rather than directly with people. David Gelernters idea of Mirror Worlds takes this to its logical conclusion: we will have a parallel world that we will increasingly inhabit which is a copy of the real world. Today, maps can provide us the spatial copy. But they do not give us the real-time component. That is where a mix of next-generation mobiles, sensors and user-generated content will come in and embellish the other world. So, Mirror Worlds are microcosms of all that we see around us as updated as the real world that they resemble. These Mirror Worlds are accessible to us through screens on the devices we have our mobiles, computers, and perhaps, networked TVs For the first time in human history, we have a device that is part of our body it travels with us everywhere. It is a two-day device in the sense that it has both eyes and ears, along with an output mechanism. We also have increasingly ubiquitous networks. What has been missing are the applications to leverage this emerging new order.

Tomorrow: SMEEMs, India and Entrepreneurs

TECH TALK The Best of Tech Talk 2005+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.