I live in the near future

Based on a comment somewhere in my network, I picked up Nick Bilton's I live in the future & here's how it works. It's an interesting read on how he sees all our new digital technologies influence the way we work and play.

Many of the ideas within the book seemed familiar to me. I don't know if that means I am living in the future with Bilton, or if I just read enough about these topics to not feel terribly uncomfortable with them. One of the central ideas of the book is that people want their "stuff" under their own control, rather than having to follow the dictates of convention: mostly that means consuming (and creating) content on their own terms and on their own devices. He talks about the rise of "me" economics, where the world doesn't so much revolve around "me" as everything is customizable to my needs and interests.

Bilton also brings in a lot of research to describe what is happening to people and ease the fears that people constantly report around brains turning to mush* at the over-use of digital technologies or multitasking or what have you. I enjoyed the trip back in time, as he recounted fears people had over television, comic books, phonographs, train travel and other technological advances in human history. The history was interesting from the perspective that society often has no idea what to do with new technologies when presented with then. Bilton suggests that is happening again today.

Given my ongoing interest in the troubles of multitasking, I was interested to read an entire chapter on the subject. While Bilton was mostly looking for the positive angles on people doing multiple things at once, he found that for all the research much of it is not totally conclusive. Sure, people cannot do multiple, cognitively intensive things at once, but there is a lot of background "noise" that passes as multitasking with no problem. As I've stated many times, my biggest gripe with multitasking is when I'm trying to get several things done all at the same time - and not successfully completing any of them when I could if I picked one and finished it. Bilton never covers this particular aspect.

Bilton wraps up the book with several ideas around what the future will look like. He covers everything from immersive technology, to technology in everything, to shifts from content to experience, to much more participation in related experiences.

In an attempt to bring the future to the book (which I got from the library, by the way), Bilton adds a QR code to the beginning of each chapter with the idea of bringing more content or a different viewpoint to each chapter. I have to say that after checking out the QR link for the introduction, the idea didn't engage me. I'm only having a look at the other entries now in retrospect. It's web sites and a video or two associated with the topic of the chapter. (Just like today: the chapter five video link is broken, and comments seem to be broken.)

* My college roommates and I used to say we were "mushing" when playing computer games. As in "turning our brains to mush." I think we've all survived fairly well.

4 Comment(s)

Sarah Elkins said:

Computer games as in Multi-User Shared Habitats (like MUDs, group text adventures, etc.), or more like video games?
I did a little bit of MUDding, a ways back. A fair number of Xeroids did (mostly Xerox PARC, though).

It took me a minute to realize what you were referring to. This was in the days before easy online access, and I recall the main "mushing" was one of the Ultima releases on my roommate's Apple. And then I had a bunch of RPG-like games on my PC. I did get into a bunch of the text-based MUDs and enjoyed programming bots to respond to other people. (One of my many side-trips during grad school.)

Camille Trentacoste said:

I'm fascinated by the history of how people respond to new technologies. It's really the history of change management, except it used to go a lot slower.

Given your Lutheran education, I don't need to tell you what happened when printing presses made it easy for everybody to read books for themselves...

Thanks for stopping by, Camille! And the change isn't going to get much slower. I liked this particular take on change, since he looked at it from several angles. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don't. And in the end, the right technologies end up in the right place at the right times - more or less.

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