Ted Selker is a multi-genius who has had a great career in big companies and the university system as well. For example, most of the innovation in IBM’s ThinkPad comes from him and as early as in 1981 he worked in human computer interaction at Stanford University in a group called User System Ergonomics. But then, he “got discouraged with science and decided to help people,” as he recounts. He found out “that the idea of artificial intelligence interacting with people to make things work better for them is essential to me.”
Becoming a pioneer in adaptive help systems Ted Selker is constantly designing helpful things like smart spoons which measure temperature and salt, wireless dashboards for cars or small devices that successfully collect power from the air.
In the future, Selker sees a lot of smart bots around us divided into two kinds: “bots that can do things for you and bots that are going to teach you. The tension between taking everything away from us that we have to do and teaching us to be better is an interesting topic for me. When I was working on autonomous vehicles almost everything I’ve done were advisory agents to make you drive better. The reason to build autonomous vehicles cannot be to make people fat and lazy.”
As Ted Selker says: “we are going to have amazing memory aides and the access to the information of the world that we have always dreamed of. But on the other hand, there are constantly things coming into my face that I cannot control – on my screen, on my phone, in my car. Everything tries to grab my attention. I want technology to learn to let me focus on something but still be aware that the information is there. My dream is: by 2067 those decisions are going to be collaborative. I get the information because I really need to pay attention to something, because I wanted to and it was a priority I made.”
Selker hopes that “technology will be our collaborator, our teacher, and we will learn together with technology.” For him, technology comes second, it is people and their interests that drive him: “We are changing much slower than even the physical realities out there,” he says. “Through technology we can explore the different sides of ourselves much more deeply than in the past.” As material things are getting cheaper and cheaper, Selker predicts “people will spend much more of their time in science, art or religion. It’s a big change that will happen to us spiritually.”
Ted Selker is an American computer scientist known for his user interface inventions. Invention, research and innovation management, human factors evaluation and smart kitchen are his special areas of interest. He is well known as a creator and tester of new scenarios for working with computing systems, for guiding, demonstrating and speaking about strategic emerging technology opportunities. Ted Selker is Associate Director of the CyLab Mobility Research Center at Carnegie Mellon University. He spent ten years as an Associate Professor at the MIT Media Lab, co-directed the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, and directed a research group to conceive the kitchen of the future.
Illustrations ©Rinah Lang