Srikanth Dev looked at the vast gathering of people in front of him. It was in this huge hall in the Leela in Mumbai, that the launch of IBM’s most revolutionary product yet, was being held. Perhaps the most revolutionary product ever. And it was he who was going to preside over the occasion. He felt a sense of immense pride mingled with great excitement. After all, it was his magnum opus, the culmination of years and years of hard work, the occasion he had lived the last twelve years for. He was, after all, the lead design architect for the product, the first IBM product that involved the medical community as much as it did the technology community. Doctors, neuroscientists, programmers, designers had all worked side-by-side for the past decade in the most secretive of locations to build this revolution.
The first thought-based release of IBM’s Lotus Notes.
He cast his mind back twelve long years, to 2005. Fresh out of college, a year into IBM, he had proposed an idea so revolutionary, even the guys up at Watson Research had laughed and dismissed it. Quantum computers, they said, were more probable than what he was proposing. But he had persevered, worked long hours after his normal day was done, spoken to people from the collaboration software industry, the imaging community, medical scientists who worked on the cutting edge of neurological research, and had come up with an earth-shattering proposal – that Lotus Notes could be installed into peoples’ brains. Thought, he proposed, would be the user interface of the future. And Notes would be the first product that would showcase this. He also showed that it could be done. Not right then, but in ten years’ time surely.
Email, he stated, was at its core a representation of ideas in text. The very idea of thought to text conversion on one end and text to thought on the other, seemed terribly inefficient. Why couldn’t human beings simply transfer thoughts? If we could create a central thought server, we could simply “think out” the email, and “think about” the person(s) to send the email too, and Bang! Instantaneous email. That had led to the creation of the ThoughtDomino team. They had got working models of his “thought server” vision in five years’ time. Srikanth remembered the first time he had been invited to try out a pre-beta version of ThoughtDomino. He had simply thought “Hello World!”, and thought of the neuroscientist in front of him, and almost instantaneously, the doctor had smiled and repeated quietly, “Hello, World!”. The doctor had “received” his message perfectly! That was when he knew that they could Do It!
Next on the agenda was SameThought, the successor to Sametime. Conversations between two or more individuals could simply be carried out by thinking about them. There was no need to type out sentences, and read them from the screen. SameThought was simply a real-time exchange of thoughts. How superbly elegant! With the ThoughtDomino infrastructure in place already, SameThought was a cinch. The team up at India Research had a working prototype in two years’ time.
Then began the final march towards MindNotes. The release date was fixed internally as Christmas Eve, 2015. The plan was to release MindNotes/ThoughtDomino exactly ten years after Srikanth had first proposed the idea. But 2012 had been a horrible year for the team, one that pushed the release date back by two years. It had involved the MindCalendar component. The idea was that a reminder set in the MindCalendar would trigger a “memory popup”, like a thought that suddenly popped up in the user’s mind. The memory popup worked fine, except that it “overwrote” the thoughts that were in the user’s mind at the instant the reminder popped up. That had resulted in chaos for the test subjects, who were left with random gaps in their memory…. the FDA in the U.S. had stalled the development for months on end. Until the John Hopkins team had come up with a “multi-nerve-path” workaround. This was kind of like multithreading in the brain, where the popup and the existing thought process followed two different nerve paths. MindNotes had galloped full steam towards the path to completion ever since!
Today was Christmas Eve, 2017. The day after Srikanth’s 35th birthday. At 35, he was hailed as a genius, a miracle worker, both in the medical and the technology communities. He was etched into history forever! Now he began his introductory address. Every single one of the audience: the Chairman of IBM, the Prime Minister of India, the IBM top brass, the press, the entire crew of MindNotes/ThoughtDomino – had a copy of MindNotes in their brains. For today’s address, therefore, the spoken word would be unnecessary. He took a deep breath, and thought:
“Ladies and Gentlemen….!”