Friday, 4 February 2011

The one Time I saw the Future, really

Reading Mashable recently I came across a story of Lymbix. From the story I have learned:

"Lymbix, makers of the ToneCheck Outlook plugin that checks the emotional tone of content in e-mail, entered an agreement Tuesday with software-maker Sherpa Software to bring ToneCheck’s sentiment analysis technology to IBM’s suite of Lotus products.

"The ToneCheck software is meant to prevent professionals from making inadvert textual faux pas, something Lymbix founders Matt Eldridge and Josh Merchant believe is a significant issue for enterprise. Licensing the ToneCheck API to Sherpa Software for Lotus integration is just one of many deals the pair hopes to orchestrate in the year ahead."

Emotional Spell Check Coming Soon to Lotus Notes

Via some later research I found that Lymbix began R&D on this product in 2009. The thing is in 2005 I wrote a short story called Spinners, where I define a key "future" technology called a Spinner that would check emotional tone, and even assigned a date for it. Below is the section from the story Spinners (Robert Hooker 2005 self published):

"Spinners had been developed in the early decades of the 21st Century. Just as the first information workers to get PCs were discovered to be such poor spellers it was necessary to install spelling checks on all computers, later generations proved to be unable to control the “tone” of their writing. Companies would want to control the amounts of negativism or positivism certain correspondences reflected, planning and managing their level of emotional nuance.

"Thus spinners become normal parts of all text systems. Spinners would check for the emotional level of a document, scoring it on hostility, friendliness, ambivalence, and hundreds of other emotional dimensions that could model the feeling communicated in a message.

"These could be set so that employees did not communicate an emotional tonE not accepted by the company. Spanners might recommend changes to the author, prevent sending unacceptable communications, or even change the message without the sender or even receiver knowing."

Okay so what is my point. This is a bit more than just a vanity post really, because the story of Spinner examines the impact that a virus that infests Tone Checking technology causes to a major government IT project that works to combat terrorism. Essentially the story is one on a Road to Singularity, where a emerging AI system called Vision becomes more and more paranoid and independent as faced with a series of counter moves by a strange set of alternative organizations able to deploy counter attacks.
background-color: transparent; font-family: 'Times New Roman'; ">Okay well enough about my short story, which I didn't bother to try and get published at the time. The key point of this blog is these tone systems are a major potential security block. I mean I really doubt many hackers are going to attack spell checking system. Spelling is one of those things that people complain about but generally if you got a few documents with mis-spelled words you would notice it pretty quick and re-install necessary software. But image the emotional tone of your document production was being screwed with by a virus?

I would be interested in learning what Lymbix thinks of this potential.

A working draft of my story Spinner is follows.

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