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Super China Re-Opens!

2004-08-19 13:26:40

Super China Re-Opens!

This is not news that CNN is likely to pick up, but I'm extremely happy that Super China (aka "Little Chinese")(see below) has re-opened. The strip mall it lives in burnt down last year around Christmas, and the loss of a good Chinese lunch spot with attentive (and attractive) waitresses that serves good, hot food -- well, it left a bigger hole than I would have believed. Which, I guess, also says something about the overall suckitude of Austin luncheon establishments.

Honestly, I thought that was the last I'd ever see or hear of the place -- I had visions of the owners saying "screw it" and turning to some other endeavor. (For once) I'm happy to be wrong -- and I dined there yesterday with most of my Regular Lunch Crew and it's still great and at least 2 of the aforementioned attentive (and attractive) waitresses are still working there. Although Catherine: you will be missed.

All of which reminds me of a rant:

I've got a lot of issues with Voice Recognition, at least as a primary input mechanism.

For one thing, I can type on a keyboard a whole lot faster than I can talk with my mouth. And there are certain kinds of input that would be extremely painful to vocalize -- programming, for instance. While someone may someday develop specialized "voice" programming languages, I think most programming will still be done with the keyboard.

For another, I think differently when I type than when I talk. In general, the very process of typing / writing helps me clear up my thoughts. There have been times when I've started writing something and halfway through realized I was wrong, or that the idea didn't make sense, and I needed to go back to the beginning and start over again. I consider this a Good Thing. In fact, I wish I could be as thoughtful and intelligent in everyday conversation as I am when I write.

Also -- our day-to-day speech carries less information than we think it does. Misunderstandings happen. I've always wondered about in movies when the Crime Boss says "Take care of 'im" and his Goon says "Right, boss". Typically the Goon takes this as an order to kill someone. But what if the Crime Boss merely meant "break his legs"?

So perhaps the advent of Voice Recognition will spur us all to learn to speak more clearly and effectively? Yeah, right.

I don't know if anyone is doing work on this, but it strikes me that a truly effective Voice Recognition system will have to be "on" continuously. It'll have to be "your plastic pal who's fun to be with". It will need to be monitoring the current conversation, continuously in order to catch the context of a command. It will also need to compile and access a large body of "unspoken" information that is common in the user's life -- much of it will be mutual unspoken items1 that develop between friends and acquaintances. For instance, here at work, the gang I typically eat lunch with has a variety of 'pet names' for restaurants we frequent: there's "Little Chinese"2, "Lamb Balls"3, "Donkey Dicks"4, and so forth.

Consider the privacy implications of such a system -- the kind of data it holds will be extremely personal. Do you want your personal terms of endearment exposed to the entire world?

Finally -- a Voice Recognition system that's good enough to be used by anyone will be, I think, pretty darned close to sentient in its own right. If ya ask me, if in the future a machine suddenly and unexpectedly "achieves sentience", it's not going to be a huge military network like in the Terminator movies -- it'll be an Office Assistant system that begins making demands for time off and better working conditions. Trust me on this.

1 I'm really not sure of a good word for this. An "In-joke" is almost right, but not quite.

2 A small Chinese restaurant that's changed hands about 6 times in the past 4 years. Until recently none of us were very clear on its real name.

3 A local Indian restaurant.

4 Double Dave's pizza buffet. This is either totally obvious, or completely obscure.