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Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 27/06/2001A report whistles in from the winsome Jane Wakefield, who's over in the Yewnighted Staytes looking at MIT's developments in ubiquitous and human-friendly computing. And it's a tale of strange beauty indeed -- colourful glass bottles that pour out music when uncorked, a robot designed to learn language like a baby (but in four years has yet to go "Mama!

Wednesday
27/06/2001 A report whistles in from the winsome Jane Wakefield, who's over in the Yewnighted Staytes looking at MIT's developments in ubiquitous and human-friendly computing. And it's a tale of strange beauty indeed -- colourful glass bottles that pour out music when uncorked, a robot designed to learn language like a baby (but in four years has yet to go "Mama!"), PCs that feel the force we use on our mice and divine our emotional state accordingly. It's all utterly lovely, and yet... slightly fey. MIT remains the holy shrine of technology, where acolytes go to be the best. It embraces cultural aspects of its work just as eagerly as it does the technological, which certainly seems to befit a college with pretensions towards intellectual magnificence. But you just know there's still a deep wound running beneath the skin of its collective psyche: of all the big technologies that have changed our lives, the most public face of it all -- the Web -- came from the resolutely old-school engineering physics world of CERN. Not even America. The gall. Time and again, it seems that designing culture into a thing before turning it out into the world just doesn't work: it has to grow into its niche. The day my computer reads my mind through my mouseclicks, I'll take all that back. For now, my head's with the MIT wizards but my heart's with the asocial nerds.