There have been so many advances in mobile computer and networking hardware that the greatest need is for new social software development.  This site is more general, and will discuss new hardware possibilities as well.


There is a cycle in which demands for new capabilities or higher performance force the development and adoption of specialized hardware, which then becomes obsolete as better software running on more general purpose machines replaces it.  New performance demands then lead to new hardware.   Some of the powerful video display processors of former years were replaced by single chips which converted the output of the a port on the CPU to a video signal.  That was not good enough, so more and more powerful video cards have been used.  But increasingly these graphics processing units, or GPUs are just general purpose computers in disguise — C  language compilers have been written for them, and programmers can use them when performance requires it. Indeed, current supercomputers are often just stacks of interconnected GPUs.  A fictional arms race of this sort appears in the novel Society Changed.

Some of the problems in social technology involve evaluating or approximating the solutions to problems which increase according to the factorial of the number of nodes in the network.  Elsewhere in the same long novel, a hardware specialist kept producing better and better chipsets, such as neural network chips to deal with these problems.  His software opponent demonstrates first that neural networks can always be emulated in software, which showed that software was adequate for the job, then she found much better algorithms not based on neural networks.

There are clearly some hardware requirements which cannot be made obsolete by better software.  For example, a device for doing some important aspects of advanced social technology should have an array of three or even for cameras directed at the face of a person using the device. Elsewhere in the same work of fiction, it is described how an array of four cameras is connected to a piece of video input hardware at least as powerful as the GPUs on the best new personal computers.  In this case the specific need was for video input processing to simulate the way the human brain sees in three dimensions, without closer objects appearing disproportionately larger.

What seems a most likely solution to the problems of a truly advanced social technology would be a handheld device like a smartphone, incorporating multiple backward facing cameras, a powerful video input chip, equally powerful video output chip, and some specialized hardware for solving a specific kind of combinatorial optimization problems.  Hardware for continuously interfacing with a telecommunications network should probably be included.  It will not be enough for people to make phone or video calls to one another, the device itself will have to coordinate its activities with similar devices carried by other people.

A fictional example of this from the same novel involves software which suggests music to listen to, based on the user’s tastes — he or she could indicate by a button push or verbal command that the current piece of music is not wanted right then, and perhaps never. This would work better if the device could monitor the user’s activities by means of sensors, also useful for other purposes.  By invisibly sharing information with compatible people from the same social environment, their own tastes could be coordinated, so that without asking specifically for it, people would be given the opportunity to hear music their friends like.

Since people may be listening to music through loudspeakers, not earphones, the novel suggests a need for full-duplex audio, not just for noise-cancellation but for adapting what the user is listening to, so it fits the sonic environment.

As well as audio and video inputs, other sensors, such as motion sensors will be useful, and they should be much more sophisticated than the ones used to find the orientation of a tablet.  As well as just sensing motion in the large, tiny motions need to be measured.  This could be thought of as a downward extension of the audio inputs — like the toys of some audio purists who refuse to consider a cutoff or rolloff of the bass frequencies. They want their equipment to handle frequencies right down to DC — direct current voltages or amperages.  As regards input, that means a microphone which can also be a barometric pressure sensor!

No amount of software could replace these sensors, which are inevitable, but a lot of software development will be necessary to make use of them. This site will also discuss the creation of new software, but that will be more the focus of the main social software development site.

For software, an open source project with contributions from many people should suffice.  Please refer to the new Social Systems Project website, and for those with any management skills, its Project Organization website.  Hardware is a harder problem, so to speak.



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