Sites of the future: determined by the computer-to-man (C2M) interface

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I cannot quite envisage the websites we might see in the future without thinking first about the way the interface computer-to-man (C2M) will evolve. To a large extent, this will determine the evolution of Internet sites.

For instance, programmers are working to design C2M interfaces based on man’s mental models. How do we learn? How do know we’re learning? How does the human mind represent and reproduce the outside world? Is the eye the main and most effective vehicle for learning in C2M environments, or should we design new interfaces that allow for a different experience? Man and computer must talk the same language, run the same thinking processes, etc. To the extent that computer science starts to mimic these extremely complex processes, then I think that we will begin to see real breakthroughs in web design.

I don’t know how far we are from using artificial intelligence outside of controlled laboratory environments. If and when that happens, we will have computers and systems that could actually think and, most importantly, learn. Maybe this will lead us to websites that use some kind of C2M interface to learn from us, most likely by extension of our senses, and then present themselves to us in such a way that is unique to each of us.

This sounds like the ultimate and most absurd level of customization. But I don’t see it that way. When you customize something in a website, it is as if you see a big tree you want to climb. When you reach a branch you’re interested in, all the other tree branches disappear, and yet your singular branch would still make sense to you and only you—after all, that’s what customization is all about.

Think about the Van Gogh Gauguin website. Can you customize it?

Some might say “yes, you can customize it because you can select which way to go. You can either click here or there, and the site will lead you through a path different from all others within that very same Van Gogh Gauguin website”. My reply is: would that make sense to you? A visitor to this website does actually need to whole thing to make sense out of each individual piece. Otherwise, clicking to see only Van Gogh’s sunflowers, or the interior of his studio, would be as incomplete an experience as a coitus interruptus.

As we move away from relying mostly on our vision, future websites will most likely be very frugal in copy and much more geared towards emotions and feelings. Not feelings of belonging to a brand, but deeper sensations heightened by the use of colors, sounds, perhaps even textures, aromas, and so on. I also believe they will not be lineal and sequential, but more circular and reverberating as they will demand more from users. Right now most websites require heavy user involvement but that doesn’t mean there is learning involved. But in the future we might see Internet sites that are those sensuous lingerie catalogues: you need to fill in the blanks, to explore your inner thoughts, and then keep them for yourself. The problem is that with a C2M sufficiently evolved, will the site also know what you’re thinking and sensing?