Giants like Altavista, Google, Yandex took on a mission: gather all information that exists in the world, organize it, and make it universally available; provide people with a place where they can look at all this information and find anything they are looking for. [A,B,C]
Mission is complete. The bottomless ocean of information is washing people’s feet. Through its waters, people see a different picture of what knowledge is. Some (if not many) things that were learned and kept in one’s memory are now available by typing a couple of letters on a keyboard. It’s enough to ask a badly formulated question and get a ton of hyperlinks, behind one of which the answer is hidden.
Well, that was yesterday. Today we have AI. GPT Chat and his foster brothers answer questions coherently, without flushing out the internet garbage. People are, of course, running towards novel AI, putting a lot of pressure on its technological capabilities as well as on the challenges it presents to the concepts of authorship and identity. [D,E,F] It is no wonder that everyone is talking and writing essays about it. I won’t follow suit.
If I was to join this technological breakthrough, I would already be back in my R&D labs of ten years ago, where my prototypes were suffering for the lack of AI support. In the things that surface today, I see the echo of these prototypes.
But I won’t go back. Instead, I present a short play.
ANDREAS is an ordinary librarian. He has a happy family, as ordinary as he himself: a wife, a son name BOB, and a dog named COOKIE. Bobby is five years old. He grows up quickly and discovers the world with eyes wide open, greedy for knowledge. Every day he has another ‘why’-s and ‘how’-s to ask his dad who knows everything.
His dad knows a lot indeed.
One day, Bob asks a question that his father was longing for. Bobby wonders why his dad knows so much, and how he can catch up. So, Bob gets to the library which is inconveniently located on the other side of the town. But that doesn’t stop him. Every day after school, Bobby rushes to the library and dives into books. He wants to become just like his father.
Bob grows up and learns different types of human love by practicing: he loves parents who love them back, know everything, and take care of him; loves Charlie the dog which knows nothing, and takes care of it. Eventually, Bob falls in love, then falls in love once again, and, while still at university, gets married.
He graduates magna cum laude and gets an ordinary office job. He has an ordinary happy family. The world belongs to him.
While Bob grows, the Internet is also growing, being of the same age. The Internet spreads the World Wide Web around the world and allow ‘search engine’ spiders to crawl it. The mission of those is ‘to gather all information in the world and make it available for everyone’.
Bob meets the Internet at his desk: they get acquainted via the web browser’s window. Bob searches the Internet for suppliers, customers, competitors; more and more he relies on the fact that there, on the Internet, ‘everything can be found’. He just needs to ask the right question.
The Internet search is dumb. It requires Bob to learn its language, a simplistic and rudimentary creole. Like a dog, it needs to be trained. Having raised Cookie, Bob understands it rather well.
BOB is an ordinary office clerk. He has a happy family, as ordinary as he himself: a wife and a daughter named DAHLIA. Dahlia is five years old. She grows up quickly and has her own ‘why’-s and ‘how’-s every day. And a dad who seems to know everything.
Dad knows where to look. Remembering his own father, Bob answers all his daughter’s questions by searching the Internet. With trepidation, he awaits the day when Dahlia will ask him The Question.
The day arrives sooner than hoped, and Bob — much like his father — brings his child to his office. He shows her a computer and explains how to find answers: just ask your question, and the Internet Search will show you where to look. Dahlia is a little disappointed with what her father really knows, but only a little. She understands that the main thing to learn is how to ask.
Bob wants to give his daughter the very best. He doesn’t want her to travel across town to his office (and distract him), so, he buys a personal computer and wires the Internet home.
Soon, there is an addition to the family. Dahlia now has a younger brother, EUGENE. She is asked to care for him.
Dahlia grows up and learns different types of human love by practicing: she loves her parents who love her back and care about her despite not knowing much; loves her younger brother who eventually grows somewhat wiser, or at least different. Of course, Dahlia doesn’t like this development but hey, what can she do — Eugene is not a dog, after all.
Dahlia and her brother grow up and both graduate with high scores. Dahlia gets a computer science degree and Bob masters social studies. They find their life partners and have happy families. The world belongs to them.
While Dahlia grows, the Internet is also growing. Search engine companies have completed their mission: all information of the world is now online. If you try hard enough, you can and will find anything. You must try hard, though. The ocean of information is too deep.
The companies have their mission complete; what seems an achievement, becomes an existential threat to them. What should they now do with hundreds of thousands of the smartest people on Earth? They need a new mission.
It presents itself: ‘The Internet should give correct and concise answers right away, without the need to search’. The Internet should do more than just help people with their search. It should give answers, for real. The Internet must understand the language humans speak and respond in kind. Times of ‘search creole’ must end.
The Internet search (as was it called before) gets smarter. It is no longer a sort of a dog, not even a toddler. In some areas, the Internet is smarter than man.
DAHLIA is an ordinary digital professional. She has a happy family, as ordinary as she herself: a husband and twins: GABRIEL and GIDEON.
Her brother, Eugene was less fortunate. A tragedy shattered his happy family. It took both Eugene’s and his wife’s lives. Only the son survived. His name is HARRY.
Dahlia takes her nephew in, but has no special love for him. Harry reminds her of her younger brother. So, Harry gets to live in a closet under the stairs.
Harry has questions, but there is no one to answer them. He must look for answers all by himself. He has no friends, so he befriends knowledge. He enters law school in absentia, faking his age, and passes the Bar.
There is no one to answer the questions that Gabriel and Gideon have, either. Dahlia goes missing at work, as does her husband. Luckily, the twins have Harry: a black sheep that is kept in a closet and ordered to run errands. Harry never becomes a full member of Dahlia’s happy family.
Gabriel, Gideon, and Harry grow up. Who will they become?
What will become of the twins that hardly saw their loving parents; the twins that used to rely on their black sheep cousin in every aspect? They don’t consider Harry a real boy.
Who will become of Harry? A boy that lived in a closet for all his life. A boy that knows of love like this: that even this family doesn't consider him equal, while at the same time they can’t do without him.
What will they become? To whom the world will belong?