The Skin-Envelope Advantage

phone screenshot
  • Physio-mechanical A human traveling at superhuman speed across terrain depends on a fuel source that requires periodic replenishing. This is obvious real-world knowledge for a human, but not likely to figure into the algorithms that inform a talking computer.
  • Socio-economic As you drive south on I-25 in Colorado, there is an increasing scarcity of exits past Colorado Springs, and gas typically (but not always) becomes sharply more expensive once you are past Pueblo. Again, these are facts discoverable by software, but of unknown or possibly unknowable relevance, because the software hasn’t really grocked where I’m going and why it might matter. It’s only evaluating one question at a time.
  • Human-existential We have to pee at regular intervals and we cannot ignore the need indefinitely. The older you are, the more often you have to pee. It’s very unwieldy to separate yourself from pee effectively while you’re driving a car.
  • Cultural People in developed nations observe the conventions of disposing of bodily excretions with a modicum of privacy and sanitation, and we rely on the infrastructure that is predictably in place to accommodate this. Violating this cultural norm is inconvenient and usually more trouble than observing it.

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