And posits we will be designing objects with their own identities. Brian has pulled out some additional quotes which are well worth your time to read.
Sterling does a much better job of articulating an idea that has been bouncing around in my head since the original Smarter Stuff: we want our devices to have personalities. Sterling is more specific: we want someone to remember things for us. For example, the little voice in our ear (or Bluetooth headset) that reminds us who we're about to shake hands with.
From this NY Times article (free registration required)
Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore, is the author of ''The Paradox of Choice,'' a book that addresses the incredible (and at times paralyzing) abundance of options available to the contemporary consumer. In the past, Schwartz notes, the challenge for the consumer was navigating a world of faulty, shoddy or unsafe products. That's not much of an issue anymore. Now, Schwartz told me, Consumer Reports might test 40 stoves, find that 38 of them are pretty good and then resort to sifting among increasingly minor differences to decide which one is the very best value of all, by however narrow a margin. The ''Pretty Good'' Problem complicates our lives as consumers and makes it increasingly difficult for one of those 38 stoves to stand out.
So, functionally they're all pretty much alike. That means less-tangibles like the quality of the design become more important.