Sam Johnstone

Ouroboros No. 1 | the Ride Sharing interface

In Laws of Media, Marshall McLuhan established a collection of effects that apply to any new media. The fourth of these asks the question “When pushed to the limits of its potential, the new form will tend to reverse what had been its original characteristics. What is the reversal potential of the new form?” I’m interested in looking at new technologies & forms and seeing in which ways they eat their own tail.

Before the smartphone but after the phone, if you wanted to call for a car service, you would find the contact information for the service you wanted, call them and place your request.

Uber and the like gave us a new, more streamlined and transparent method of placing those requests. Soon we could open up an app, see the cars around us, and watch as one of them slowly zig-zagged to wherever we might be. Now with the rise of bots, scripts and natural-language AIs, we have a more frictionless method of doing the very same. We can just call out “Siri/Cortana/Alexa/Etc call me an Uber”, and a car will find its way over.

So while I won’t be obtuse about the very obvious infrastructural changes that have come to ride-sharing and car services over the last half decade, I will point out that in terms of interface, we’ve come full circle. Just that now instead of a person as our dispatcher, we have a digital assistant.