Learning from the Strategic Defense Initiative
Branding technologies is an interesting business. Meta tried to brand a heap of technologies into “The Metaverse”. This is like the technologies that enable “machine learning” aggregated into “Artificial Intelligence”. Or “Alien Intelligence” if you are creeped out by the idea that Skynet is here and about to be sentient.
The inspiration for these brands is very West Coast where fact and fantasy have long interbred. In the ’80s Reagan co opted Lucas to create the Star Wars program (Strategic Defense Initiative) that would use death rays to shoot down Soviet missiles. The program employed scientists and technologists up and down the West Coast until they were laid off due to its irrelevance. The technology was mocked and never went anywhere. Many of those laid off from “Star Wars” wound up working for tech companies.
“Star Wars” / SDI contributed to the end of the Cold War and the ascendence of The West Coast as a crucible for technology innovation.
The narrative proved more effective than the technology.
Not so for Metaverse and Meta, but AI, as we now know it, seems to be having a similar effect. The technologies of AI reorganize the content of the internet into narratives that are easy to understand. Underneath the function of AI is information created by people. The threat is not that it is “Artificial Intelligence” but that fact and fiction have equal status. Machines do not “know” the difference. They are not sentient, so no Skynet, and they are not conscious.
Branding technologies helps create a narrative. The question should be “who is telling the story and why?”.