Recently, Joerg Richter of DeepaMehta was interviewed by the alternative, entertaining “Kuechenradio” (= kitchen radio) podcast station (German audio here, skip first 5 minutes).It was kind-of an acid test for his computer philosophy, and in a way it was refreshing and amusing to watch the interviewers sincerely trying to understand his purposes. But in the end, they put his project in the “maverick”, “esoteric” drawer, and I think this is another proof that we have not yet learned to embrace cognitive diversity; and that we are still chasing some mainstream ideal – and heading towards mediocrity.
Joerg’s central argument is that we should use the computer as a tool to augment thinking, not like an active mate or assistent that relieves us from thinking, but OTOH corrals us into its cognitively inadequate world of windows, applications, and files. He worries that people are obsessed by automation devoutness, and offers a (prototype of a very promising) tool that the user can shape for themselves.
He suggested that his enthusiasm for the daily external stimuli, like news and even blogs, is uncommonly small. And of course, it is also unusual that he is not fascinated about the inanimate computer’s “intelligence” and contents, being the canned “intelligence” of countless human developers and authors, much like the book (made from dead trees but filled with coagulated wisdom of smart people) has always fascinated people. But this distinctive attitude of his, brings with it an extraordinary sharp perception of what is wrong with our desktops.
The project’s planned software will probably not become the favorite application for everybody and every task. But there is an audience for it. I tend to think that it is approximately half of the population who values to visualize wider contexts, but if it really was only a minority, and if this audience used it only for certain high-quality requirements, it would still be market. But if we continue to marginalize all competing cognitive styles by focussing on the killer applications for everybody, we must not complain about mediocre products like powerpoint documents.