I've written previously about MOM -- a whiteboard project dreamed up last century at a New Directions for News workshop. MOM stands for "My Own Matrix," a universal personal infobroker that would monitor all the news, tell you what you need to know, keep track of your schedule, recommend activities and even suggest friends. Mom wouldn't be a device, but rather an entity on a network that would interact with you through any number of devices.
When we got done writing down the attributes of MOM, we realized two things: One, we had rendered all existing media products obsolete, and two, no existing media company would ever build it.
Today comes the news that Google has released user-geotracking software that runs on mobile phones and continuously updates the big Google brain with information on your current location. This ability to know where you are was one of MOM's requirements. Now she can recommend based on location, or tell us where not to go.
This isn't entirely new, of course; many phones have had GPS capability for awhile, and other services such as Loopt have been able to track and share location. A lot of the features MOM would have already exist somewhere on the Internet.
But Google is slowly aggregating all the functionality of MOM, lacking a June Cleaver interface of course. If Google ever figures out how to get everything working together, we'll have a real breakthrough, an entity that knows who we are, where we are, who our friends are, what we plan to do, and can make recommendations about where we ought to go, who we should meet and what we ought not to do.
Exciting and potentially scary.
"Singularity" is a term from mathematics often used by science-fiction writers to describe a point at which some system, perhaps a computer network, reaches a turning point in functionality that changes everything.
Often this shows up as a hard-edged moment, like Skynet becoming self-aware in the Terminator movies, or Colossus in the Forbin Project. There were jokes last weekend, when Google suddenly began marking everything on the Internet -- even itself -- as malware, that Google had suddenly become self-aware.
But that's now how it will happen. The future, as William Gibson says, is already here; it's just unevenly distributed.
Google and Facebook and Twitter and recommendation engines and mobile devices and GPS chips and ubiquitous networking are rewriting the way we discover, the way we interact, the way we communicate and the way we think.
It's a soft-edged process taking place at a human generational pace. In some ways this makes it harder to see, harder to understand, and much more of a challenge for those of us who play key roles in the old processes -- especially journalists.