[The iPhone wasn't the world's best cell phone.] It was the world’s best portable computer. Best not in the sense of being the most powerful, or the fastest, or the most-efficient to use. The thing couldn’t even do copy-and-paste. It was the best because it was always there, always on, always a button-push away. The disruption was not that we finally had a nice phone; it was that, for better or for worse, we would never again be without a computer or the Internet.
Yesterday Apple released Siri, a voice-activated personal assistant for the iPhone. It seems very impressive. But here’s something also impressive — in 1987, Apple predicted Siri with Knowledge Navigator:
It’s eerily like Siri, though Siri isn’t that advanced. But it doesn’t seem like it will take too much longer to get there.
[Games] offer those clearly articulated rewards for each point players score and new level they achieve, games trigger the release of dopamine, a hormone in the brain that encourages us to explore and try new things. Since we like the feeling we get when our brains are awash in dopamine, we’ll do whatever it takes to get it, over and over again. Video and computer games, as well as slot machines, are particularly good at this. They offer “threshold effects,” where prizes or level changes are dribbled out to keep us hooked. It’s the same system that drives compulsive gamblers and cocaine addicts.
It’s also what makes it possible for gamers to enter a mental state called “flow,” in which they’re completely immersed in what they are doing and lose track of time. (In sports, it’s called the “zone,” when a basketball player, for example, feels as if he can’t miss a shot.) In 2003, two researchers at the University of Southern California studied the impact of violent video games on brain activity. Test subjects climbed into an MRI machine and played a popular shoot-’em-up. These machines tend to be cramped and noisy; people usually want a break after 20 minutes. But the test subjects were happy to remain crammed inside one for an hour or more.