In the first part of this series, we talked about a hypothetical new system, iDarpan, and how it could elevate customer experience. We also discussed spatial computing and the possibility of digital twins in marketing. In this second part, we will discuss David Gelernter’s idea of ‘Mirror Worlds’ and how it could revolutionize the use of computers.
Mirror World – 1
As I thought about digital twins, I recalled a book I read nearly three decades ago, ‘Mirror Worlds’ by David Gelernter. The book was published in 1991, before the internet and the web came into our lives. This was also around when I left NYNEX and started my entrepreneurial journey. Let’s quickly look at the book’s description.
“Yale computer expert David Gelernter sees one such giant leap on the horizon. Today’s small-scale software programs will be joined by vast public software works that will revolutionize computing and transform society. One such program is the ‘Mirror World.’
Imagine looking at your computer screen and seeing an image of your city, complete with moving traffic or a picture that sketches the state of an entire corporation at this second. Mirror Worlds are hi-tech voodoo dolls, where interacting with images lets you interact with reality.
A software imitation will gradually replace reality, and we will live inside this imitation. This will be a significant humanistic advance, where we control our world, along with a new measure of insight and vision. In this fascinating book, Gelernter shows us the future of computer technology. According to Gelernter, Mirror Worlds will allow us to explore the world in unprecedented detail.
A hospital administrator could walk around a medical complex using a desktop computer. Citizens can explore local schools and chat electronically with teachers and other Mirror World visitors – by simply interacting with the Mirror World.
Instead of speculating how this new software will be used, Gelernter shows us how it will be made, explaining how to build a Mirror World using already available technology. We learn about obscure computer components such as ‘disembodied machines,’ ‘trellises,’ and ‘ensembles,’ which he explains using familiar metaphors and terms.”
A Mirror World is an ocean of information fed by several data streams. Some data streams represent the manual entry of data at computer terminals. As a result, they flow slowly. Other streams are fed by automatic data-gathering and monitoring equipment, such as a weather monitoring unit, hospital machinery, or traffic volume sensors. These fast data streams often threaten to overwhelm main programs with information.
Mirror Worlds can connect to fast data streams through a software hydroelectric plant. Such programs sift through complex data, looking for trends and patterns, and are constructed as layered networks. Data values are drawn in and passed through a series of data refineries that convert them into comprehensive chunks of information. As low-level data flows in at the bottom, the big picture comes into focus at the top.
A Mirror World is a two-faced duality. You can see it as a data pool and detailed historical archive. You could also look at it as a data filter, capturing and synopsizing the current state of a complex system.
Mirror World –2
ChatGPT And Bard Summary
I then asked ChatGPT and Bard to summarize the Mirror Worlds idea.
The book presents several ideas:
- Mirror Worlds: The core concept in the book is that of ‘Mirror Worlds.’ Mirror Worlds are software models of a part of reality, such as a city, financial market, or industrial process. Individuals can explore these digital reflections of reality and get a comprehensive overview of complex, real-world systems.
- Prediction and Planning: Gelernter believes Mirror Worlds can be instrumental in the decision-making process and play a crucial role in planning and prediction. For example, city planners can predict the impact of policies and decisions by modeling the city as a Mirror World, leading to better outcomes.
- Data visualization and accessibility: According to Gelernter, the traditional text-based interface of computers will evolve into more graphical, interactive, and intuitive representations, making data more accessible and understandable. Mirror Worlds will also require complex data to be visualized in a user-friendly manner.
- Social and political implications: The book also discusses the social and political consequences of Mirror Worlds. According to Gelernter, Mirror Worlds could promote transparency, allowing citizens to understand the workings of various government systems. However, he also warns about privacy breaches and information overload risks.
- Ubiquitous computing: Gelernter also predicts the rise of ubiquitous computing, where computing is embedded into everyday objects and activities. The interactivity of Mirror Worlds would play a critical role in this pervasive digitization of the world.
Gelernter wrote this book in 1991, but many ideas presented in it have found parallels with modern technological development. These include digital twins, sophisticated simulations, augmented reality, and virtual reality.
Mirror Worlds by David Gelernter explores the potential of using software to create a virtual representation of the real world. These ‘Mirror Worlds’ would be updated in real-time, allowing users to interact with them in several ways. For example, a Mirror World of a city could help track traffic patterns, plan routes, or visualize data about crime. Similarly, a Mirror World of a company could help track inventory, manage finances, and simulate product development.
He also argues that Mirror Worlds could change how we think about the world. They could help us make better decisions by giving us a virtual representation of reality.
Let’s look at some key ideas of Mirror Worlds.
- Mirror Worlds are a virtual representation of the real world, updated in real-time, and can interact with the real world in several ways.
- Mirror Worlds can revolutionize how we interact with and think about the world around us.
Since its publication in 1991, Mirror Worlds and several of Gelernter’s ideas discussed in it have become a reality. However, many challenges need to be overcome for them to reach their full potential. For example, they require significant computing power and bandwidth. They also need to represent the real world accurately in a useful way. Despite these challenges, Mirror Worlds can potentially change how we interact with the world.
Continued in Part 3