“Access to My Entire Information Life”
David Gelernter is professor of computer science at Yale, chief scientist at Mirror Worlds Technologies, contributing editor at the Weekly Standard, and member of the National Council of the Arts. He is the author of several books and many technical articles, as well as essays, art criticism, and fiction. The "tuple spaces" introduced in Carriero and Gelernter's Linda system (1983) are the basis of many computer-communication and distributed programming systems worldwide. According to Reuters, his book "Mirror Worlds" (Oxford University Press, 1991) "foresaw" the World Wide Web and was "one of the inspirations for Java"; the "lifestreams" system (first implemented by Eric Freeman at Yale) is the basis for Mirror Worlds Technologies' software. Gelernter is also the author of "The Muse in the Machine" (Free Press, 1994), the novel "1939" (Harper Perennial, 1995), "Machine Beauty" (Basic Books, 1998), and most recently, "Judaism: A Way of Being" (Yale University Press, 2010).
Question: What will be the next big technological innovation?
David Gelernter: Software unification. So that I no longer care what computing device I pick up, whether it’s a laptop or desktop, whether it’s one I own or one in a public place, whether it has a small screen or a large screen. I sit down, I identify myself, I tune in my information world, I get it the same way on a no-screen computer in a car. Uniform access across platforms, computers, telephones, to my entire information life. It’s easy to achieve in hardware; there are hard software issues, but they should have been solved 15 years ago.
Question: If you had to invest in digital media, which companies would you invest in?
David Gelernter: Which is so long from the other side of the fence. If I were to invest in a new company? I would invest in some of the companies that were working on so-called digital furnaces. In five years, everybody throws out all the CD’s and DVD’s. There are larger MP3 players, home stereo systems, and TV systems are integrated and this is a multi-billion dollar transition. As things stand, it will be Sony and Google, Toshiba and very large companies doing it, and they won’t do it badly, but they won’t do it well. I would invest in one of the small companies that have imaginative instead of recycled ideas as to how to make that transition.
Obstacles to software unification should have been surmounted already. When they are, David Gelernter will be a happy man.