At LIFT06 in Geneva sci-fi author Bruce Sterling goes on stage talking about spimes. He starts with pointing out that there are six trends in technology which all have something to do with physical objects:
- interactive chips (objects can be labeled with interactive chips - RFID, electronic barcoding, and so on)
- geolocation (positioning systems for physical objects)
- powerful search engines (you can find things digitally)
- 3D modeling projects (virtual design)
- rapid prototyping of objects (fabjects, blogjects)
- cradle-to-cradle recycling (transparent design)
These are six big things. If they all happen they will cause people to interact with physical object in very different ways: physical objects will be regarded as material extension of immaterial systems (hard copies of data-support systems). Bruce believes that this is an unprecedented situation, and he came up with a neologism, a speculative noun, to encapsulate it: "spime".
Take the world's most generic, boring, cheap, everyday object, he says (he shows a drawing of a soap box): "I expect it to be changed in the next three decades in the same way that computers have changed work, typewriters, pens, paper. I'm talking about processing objects".
What kind of conceptual territory is he trying to cram into this single concept? He starts a long enunciation of "possible rival terms" (rivals to spime):
- Blogjects: objects that can blog, that have embedded data and can communicate.
- UFOs: but it sounds too sci-fictional, here we are talking about everyday life.
- Mobile, social software, etc: these are the network support systems for spimes.
- Internet of things: ecology of things involving automatic transfer of data among objects.
- Object hyperlinking: context-aware computing, mapping digital objects.
- Web2.0: it's not a web, is a social movement of techno-social interested parties.
- Everyware: really cool pun but nobody knows what you're talking about when you talk verbally.
- Infocloud: digital backup that's generated by blogjects.
- Bluesphere: as in the space generated by Bluetooth (makes fun of it).
A spime is searchable, but not smart, not aware, not story-telling ("there is no narrative here"). Its proper interface is probably a handheld device.
Bruce (the picture is from Stephanie's Flickr stream) is currently trying to write a nove describing what's like to wake up in a world full of spimes. "I will have characters in my book who beat the spimes". What is the difference between the world he's trying to describe and the world we have now? "I won't need to remember where I put things, where I bought them, how much I paid: I just ask. I no longer search for my shoes in the morning, I just google them. My relation with objects will be much simpler and casual than today". And: "The structure of emotions will change radically, it will be more intense, it will be a less physical and more relational process".
The key to this, the secret to the whole scheme, is: what is the question to which ubiquitous computation is the answer? Why would anyone want to have it? What is it good for? Bruce's answer: "It's a way to run a society that doesn't fall apart. It's good for sustainability".