Crossman, William 1939-

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CROSSMAN, William 1939-

PERSONAL: Born 1939, in New Haven, CT. Education: Cornell University, B.A.; Harvard University, M.A.; attended Massachussets Institute of Technology.

ADDRESSES: Home—Oakland, CA. Office—CompSpeak 2050 Institute for the Study of Talking Computers and Oral Cultures, P.O. Box 3606, Oakland, CA 94609-3606. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Philosopher, professor, and lecturer. CompSpeak 2050 Institute for the Study of Talking Computers and Oral Cultures, Oakland, CA, founder and director. Taught at Morris Brown College, 1989–97, and at Harvard University, Tufts University, City College of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, Antioch College West, and Vista Community College.


VIVO (Voice-In/Voice-Out): The Coming Age of Talking Computers, Regent Press (Oakland, CA), 2004.

Contributor to online sites, including TNTY Futures (

SIDELIGHTS: Over the span of William Crossman's career as a philosopher and lecturer, he has been fascinated by how language and technology intermingle in various worldwide cultures, and he is founder and director of CompSpeak 2050 Institute for the Study of Talking Computers and Oral Cultures, The theory for which Crossman is best known is that "talking computers"—VIVOs (voice-in/voice-out machines)—will largely replace text-based technologies by 2050, and that the skills of reading and writing will become outmoded, pursued only by hobbyists. His VIVO (Voice-In/Voice-Out): The Coming Age of Talking Computers describes a future in which written language has become obsolete and VIVOs have radically affected every aspect of daily life.

VIVO (Voice-In/Voice-Out) is the culmination of decades of research into the roles written and oral communication have played throughout history. Specifically, Crossman points to four forces or "engines" that are propelling technologically advanced cultures toward relying on VIVOs: biological and psychological evolution, the natural tendency to develop new technologies to replace older ones, the propensity of today's youth toward non-text technologies, and the eighty percent of the world's population that is illiterate. Crossman sees VIVO's as providing the illiterate and those with certain disabilities a means of accessing the online world, as well as destroying language barriers by making possible instant translation between languages.

Crossman's lectures on the subject of talking computers have taken him across the United States and around the world to such countries as New Zealand, Sweden, Italy, and Australia. Topics have included the implications of talking computers on politics, culture, and education; technological advances in the areas of voice recognition; and practical applications of talking computers, such as assisting students with disabilities.



Futurist, November/December, 2004, Clifton Coles, "The End of Written Language?," p. 57.

Willits News, June 8, 2005, Francine Brevetti, "The End of the Written Word."


CompSpeak 2050 Institute for the Study of Talking Computers and Oral Cultures Web site, (June 15, 2005).