The Future of the Object Verbatim

by Luke Wroblewski August 18, 2004

The latest and greatest addition to my last two posts about the future of the object: a complete transcript of Bruce Sterling's keynote to SIGGRAPH 2004: When Blobjects Rule the Earth.

In my grand vision, there's a history of the relationship of objects and human beings. It goes like this. Up to the present day, during previous history, we humans have had. and made, four different classes of possible objects. These classes of objects are called, in order of their historical appearance, Artifacts, Machines, Products, and Gizmos.

The lines between Artifacts, Machines, Products and Gizmos aren't mechanical. They're historical. The differences between them are found in the material cultures they make possible. The kind of society they produce, and the kind of human being that is necessary to make them and use them.

Artifacts are made and used by hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers.

Machines are made and used by customers. in an industrial society.

Products are made and used by consumers, in a military-industrial complex.

While Gizmos are made and used by end-users, in whatever today is -a "New World Disorder," a "Terrorism-Entertainment Complex," our own brief interregnum."

"Now, I could redesign this Gizmo to make it into a simple Product.

But then this Gizmo would become a commodity. There would be little profit in that; in an end-user society like ours, Products come in bubblepak or shrinkwrap in big heaps, like pencils. There is no money in them.

So there are good reasons why a Gizmo is almost impossible to use.

It's because a Gizmo is delicately poised between commodity and chaos.

It is trying to cram as much impossible complexity as it can, into an almost usable state. It is leaning forward into the future.