The recent death of my friend Rich Gold makes me think about what we want technology to do. Rich worked hard to understand technology, and then make it do exactly what he wanted it to do. He used it mostly to tell stories, and to make the connections he saw visible to the rest of us. Mostly, his innovation was applying technology his way. A way that breathed a spark of life into silicon.
What I miss most about Rich isn't his words, or his cartoons, or his code. What I miss most is his presence. Knowing that he's simply around the corner, working in his office, calling on the phone, sipping a coffee across the table. And almost nothing technology does can create the illusion of his presence.
It's not his content. There's plenty of content that Rich created in his lifetime, from paintings, to cartoons, from electronic music to Little Computer People. The content is comforting. But the way that it's most comforting is that it gives me evidence that he was actually here just last week.
It's not just about better technology, either. We have technology, and if it's deployed (like true broadband wireless, or high-speed symmetrical WAN), it does pretty much what we expect. We are just learning about what we really want to use it for.
Kids swarm to IM. They use the technology to match something core in our beings -- the fact that through 2 million years of our evolution, we lived within earshot of eachother -- and scarf it to fit -- using what we have to recreate tribal presence with constant IM banter and 20 open windows.
Presence is the killer ap.