Best innovations are information-rich

Not all media innovations are actual hits with the public. Consider the differential impact of smell synthesizers with, say, photography. What has made photography much more widely adopted? Perhaps it is the flexibility of the photograph for conveying information — the human brain could discern differences between millions of different photographs but maybe only hundreds of different smells. Thus, every photograph is far more information-rich, and it is a more useful medium for communicating complex ideas. Trying to communicate by smell — unless you are, perhaps, a dog — is like trying to translate the complexity of Shakespeare into a first-grade vocabulary, or in a geeky Web analogy, like trying to program a server-side SQL database with only SSI statements. The detail and extensibility of a vocabulary just isn’t there. Another way to look at it is the fact that pictures can be used as passwords, because there are enough distinctive pictures in the world. I doubt there would ever be enough unique smells to generate strong passwords.

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This page last modified on Sunday, January 15, 2006 at 7:59 pm