Today I dug out an old academic-style paper I wrote in 1992, On the Definition and Desirability of Autonomous User Agents in CSCW, and put a web version in my archives section. (CSCW stands for Computer-Supported Co-operative Work.)
I think the paper still stands up fairly well as a critique of the idea that our computers will one day have faces and talk back to us (and each other) as though they were independent, anthropomorphic beings. Computers that appear like people are still a novelty item — see Ananova, the virtual newscaster for example — which thankfully behave with none of the autonomy that characterises real people. Since 1992 research has progressed on software agents, which carry out some tasks quasi-autonomously using artificial intelligence techniques, but a review of the MIT Software Agents Group's list of projects shows that these are rarely if ever presented as autonomous beings on the user interface.
The trigger that prompted me to re-visit this old paper will be made clear in my next posting.Posted by David Jennings in section(s) Human-Computer Interaction, Ideas and Essays on 1 November 02003 | TrackBack