Saturday, March 17, 2012


I first heard the term Nerdvana while watching the series Big Bang Theory. I thought the term as an interesting play on words which writers of that particular episode coined. It turns out thought that this word has an actual meaning as per Urban Dictionary. Now with enough links for introduction of the title - on to what really got me to write this article.

I was having a chat with a friend of mine and somehow the chat turned to cooking and I boasted about my acute sense of smell with food. I can often tell the name of the recipe being cooked in my Mom's kitchen just by smelling it from the living room. I know a lot of foodies probably have this acute sense of smell but I don't see many boasting about it like a super power so guess I can still brag. ... Sorry for the drift - back to the chat. Then I mentioned I'd probably guess what's cooking in my friends kitchen if only the cell phones could transmit the smell. Voila! I thought I had just discovered what human sense will the Tele-communication industry engage (read exploit) next.

The Telecommunication industry has now been present for more than 150 years and so far they have only managed to engage two senses (audio and video) out of available 5 and already I hear people talking about spending an increasing amount of time connecting with friends, relatives, colleagues, clients through gizmos (computers, cell phones etc) than face to face in person. To the point that for some computer nerds like me that percentage of time spent on gizmos may actually be higher than time spent time spent otherwise. A few months of working from home can do that to you. To quote a la Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory - "Although my work is going on very well with I do miss the warmth of human companionship"
There is of course my family which is with me everyday in person, but I guess you get the drift. Now come to think of it all forms of social contact somehow seems to involve food. Why else do we have so many names for the simple act of consuming a meal and accompanying beverages - dinner, breakfast, lunch, high tea, brunch, supper , cocktails and what not ... Each of the words means more than just consuming food. There is even a social protocol on what you are supposed to wear (ever heard of dinner jacket, cocktail dress). Of course on the rare occasion that someone bothers inviting me all I really hear is food. My point though is food (beverages included) is an inseparable part of social contact. It is perhaps also the reason why I miss the warmth of human companionship. You know home food is good .. but eating outside adds that variety to the menu of life. Ok readers .. sorry for the drift to food... coming back to human companionship.

As per my point above real life human companionship involves food. A social networking site  (or for that matter even email) presents vicarious pleasure of hanging out with friends. Phone calls and video chat personalize the experience. In both cases though, there is something missing. Lets say you have a friend who is living in a distant land and its that friend's birthday. In today's telecom, you can see the cake, talk about it but you can't smell it, touch it or taste it. Should I say you can have the cake but you can't eat it .. Evidently there is some time before devices can help you attain Nerdvana.

Thus I would argue that Nerdvana is essentially science fiction ... just like Nirvana is religious fiction. However I feel,  and science fiction artists (authors, movie makers et al)  might agree, that perhaps humans would reach Nerdvana before Nirvana. If of course Science and Religion converge first then Nerdvana would perhaps be the same as Nirvana ....
Thanks to science fiction though, we already have a few versions of Nerdvana as possible references. Whether it is Star Trek's Holodeck or The Matrix or even Robocop (remember the Robot body with a human brain).  While the latter two give more importance to the human brain, I think the true Nerdvana would be something that allows virtual presence like holodeck.

This brings me to my voila feeling about the sense of smell .. or put simply odour. I think like audio and video, the possibility of dumbing down odour to a finite set of codes exists and is quite high ...  To think about it most languages are covered in 8 bits .  Most colours are covered in 24 bits. Then of course there is the problem of sensing and recreating (and of course transmitting it). To that problem I say this - recreating odour is really down to certain chemicals.
e.g. most alcoholic beverages have the characteristic smell of Ethyl Alchohol or preserved food often get their smell from esters and so on. The point is it sounds plausible to me that the next sense catered to by Telcom Industry will be odour. May be a bunch of scientists might even get their PhDs along the way. But I count on them for making that possible.

For sake of argument, some might say "Touch" might have a better chance given the advancement of touch devices, but mind you the skin is a much bigger organ and engaging the sense of touch is not merely catering to touch from the finger .... pun intended.
Then how about taste ... oh how I wish .. yeah the coffee making machine has been around for at least a decade but we are still far away from Star Trek's Replicator. Of course taste cannot be complete without smell ain't it ... till then "Live long and Prosper" or may be "Freeze long enough and wake up @ Nerdvana"

1 comment:

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