It didn't happen again. We didn't manage to have any armageddons. If you were a fan of the TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (and who was, really?), then you may remember that last Wednesday, Skynet went online. Today is the day that Skynet became self-aware. That means that there was supposed to be an earth-shattering Ka-Boom!

There are two reasons it didn't happen:

1) We're lazy, and,

2) Teledildonics.

I'll address the first one first, if you don't mind. I'm sure that when you read "We're lazy," most of you just skimmed past it or nodded just a tiny bit. No doubt you couldn't quite muster the energy to argue the point. But let me clarify anyway. In the early 60's, Ted Nelson coined the term "hypertext," which you've probably heard about. Those little links on webpages are common forms of hypertext. You click on a hypertext link and it's most likely going to take you to related information. That can really help you get context for what you're reading, or give you a trail to follow if you'd like to branch off and dive into a different subject.

This is a natural extension of the sentence. You've got a pile of words which are grouped together to give context to each other: 

"She drove that red car."

These words modify and clarify each other until an idea is conveyed. Then, the hypertext link elaborates further for anyone willing to click. But Ted Nelson didn't intend for us to stop there. In fact, Ted Nelson believes that the Worlds-Wides-Web is a really lame implementation of the hypertext model. Ted wants everyone to be using Project Xanadu. Imagine taking linking to the next level by having a giant, cross-linked tangle of non-sequential information where you could navigate through any way you desired. I'll give you second to let that sink in. Make sense? I think Ted could explain it better, if you have the time.

When I think about the Intersweb, it seems like a giant mound of data. IBM recently proved that you can take all that data (plus a whole bunch more) and if you've got a good enough query engine, you can win at Jeopardy. The problem is, that data doesn't contain context. Pop the word "drove" out of the sentence above. What does it mean?


  • a group of animals (a herd or flock) moving together
  • a moving crowd
  • a stonemason's chisel with a broad edge for dressing stone
  • drive - travel or be transported in a vehicle; "We drove to the university every morning"; "They motored to London for the theater"
  • drive - force: force into or from an action or state, either physically or metaphorically; "She rammed her mind into focus"; "He drives me mad"
  • drive - to compel or force or urge relentlessly or exert coercive pressure on, or motivate strongly; "She is driven by her passion"
  • drive - repel: cause to move back by force or influence; "repel the enemy"; "push back the urge to smoke"; "beat back the invaders"
  • drive - compel somebody to do something, often against his own will or judgment; "She finally drove him to change jobs"
  • drive - push, propel, or press with force; "Drive a nail into the wall"
  • drive - cause to move rapidly by striking or throwing with force; "drive the ball far out into the field"

There's no way to know. But, if you linked that word over to the specific meaning, you wouldn't need the context of the other words. This is the level we haven't reached with our webs. This is the level that Ted thinks we should reach.

How will we know when we get to this level? Let's call it the Guttenberg test.

In Short Circuit, Steve Guttenberg hands Number 5 a coffee stain on a piece of paper and asks him what it is. After describing the chemical composition of coffee (in other words, he just provides a pile of raw data), the robot tells him it looks like a butterfly or something. This proves that he's "alive." As soon as our information is so well correlated that we can find the butterflies, then we can have self-aware artificial intelligence and we can usher in Judgement day where the machines will go to war with us. But, unfortunately, we're too lazy.

Reason 2:

The other reason we don't get to have awesome metal killing machines is even more disappointing: Teledildonics. These are computer-controlled sex toys that can be operated at a distance. Can you guess who invented this term? Yes, you're correct, this term was also coined by Ted Nelson. He came up with teledildonics about 1975. So, after pushing his revolutionary scheme for turning data into intelligence for about ten years, he decided to do something useful.

I can only assume that we go so wrapped up in our teledildonics that we're just going to have to keep waiting for the self-aware killing machines.


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