What happened to ‘Windows 9’?

I was talking to an old friend a couple of years ago, just before my band was going to play a show at a bar in Seattle. He’s been at Microsoft for quite a few years, and was saying that one of Vernor Vinge’s old books is like a guidebook for a lot of MS people, in terms of what future technologies the high-ups (perhaps) would like to the company to contribute to or pioneer.

Okay, so, MS folks read sci-fi; no surprise there.

Now for the other half of the puzzle: I have been reading the second 2016 issue of THE SKEPTIC, and took some extra time to dig into the arguments for and against the (eventual, distant) possibility of uploading one’s entire consciousness onto silicon (or some other substrate), partly because another friend has already invested in having his (and his wife’s) brain frozen for eventual uploading.

The author of one of the articles from THE SKEPTIC synthesizes results and possibilities from quite a bit of current and recent work in neuroscience and neurobiology, with references to numerous scientific papers from journals such as Nature, Nature Methods, The Journal of Neuroscience, Proc. NAS, Nature Neuroscience, Frontiers in Psychology, Progress in Neurobiology, Neuroscience, Journal of Neural Engineering, etc. (You get the picture.)

He also references several books: some technical, some more along the lines of popular science, and one, a fiction book.

I ordered two of the three technical/scientific books online, and found the fiction (sci-fi) book at Powell’s, so I started reading that one. It’s called Kiln People, and it’s by David Brin. It reads a little like a detective-story version of The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul, which is an excellent compilation of stories and essays meant to exercise the reader’s understanding of self, soul, consciousness, and the boundaries of such. It was compiled/written (“composed and arranged”) by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett. The Brin book flows better, as it is pure fiction (altough this is not to say The Mind’s I doesn’t; it’s a superbly crafted book).

And like most good sci-fi, Kiln People is well-informed fiction (like Diaspora by Greg Egan), and that’s why, I suppose, it was listed along with dozens of peer-reviewed neuroscience articles.

In any case, my reason for writing this small post is not neuroscience, or consciousness, or spirituality, or the human soul, but a wild conjecture about the naming of Windows 10. If Microsoft programmers, managers, executives, etc., like to read sci-fi, and some of them have read Vinge, it is not unlikely that out of that many people, some have read Kiln People by David Brin. In the edition I bought, on page 396, the narrator and main character lists people whose deaths have come at the hands of their own creation. The list contains Oedipus’ father, Baron Frankenstein, and “William Henry Gates and Windows ’09.” (The book is copyrighted 2002.)

Granted, there was no year-named “Windows ’09” (that I know of). However, the abbreviation “’09” (for the year) could have been pronounced by some people just like the numeral ‘9’, and I’m guessing the sci-fi fans at MS, in marketing, for example, may have read the book, and not wanted to follow Windows 8 with a Windows 9, avoiding Brin’s fictional prediction, or even better, avoiding making Brin look bad when that did not come true.

Otherwise, why go ‘Windows 7’, ‘Windows 8’, ‘Windows 10’?


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