I’m pretty observant. Or Nosy! I’m not sure which, I’d like to hover around the former though for the sanctity of my ego. What I’ve observed over the last few weeks is people. London affords you such a good opportunity to people watch. I often sit in Coffee Shops (love you Costa!, other Coffee Shops available apparently!) & whilst I tip tap away on my computer, I find myself starring out across the busy hustle & bustle. Amongst the Soho hipsters, achingly cool on their fixed wheel bicycles & messenger bags, Wall St & other ‘City’ professionals in Oswald Boetang suits & ‘media’ types carrying a Latte in one hand, and an entire tree of paperwork in the other, there’s something common which stands out.
It’s come at us from behind, we knew it would, we did’nt really care, and it’s happened seemingly as quick yet perversely as slow as these things tend to. It wraps around us & our lives covering us in communicable warmth, allows us to ‘express’ ourselves (whatever that means) & it bring’s us together. What is it you cry!? It’s of course, technology.
It started off with the smartphone; its said that over (well over) half the UK own a smartphone (see here) & do you know what? I believe it! Walking across Waterloo concourse the other day, I spotted 13 people, (I counted) every single one of them as diverse as the next, but unifying them all was the 45 degree angle their heads were bent at, whilst they prodded & made masterbatory gestures into a glass coated screen of something they held in their hand (insert your own joke here – by coincidence, they were all iPhones but more on that later). Is this our evolution!? Perhaps we’ll give birth to children with 38% smaller fingers (easy to poke a screen with) and necks which bend like an owl, to acommodate the constant information overload we are exposed to.
Not one of them were looking up, they all had ear buds in, information about their environment being augemented into their earbuds and eyes as data I suspect, included Social Media, the News, a book, maps, Train times, all flashed before there eyes in a bite size 4.7″ retina display. How convienient!
How many times have you seen people walk along the street (in London anyway) navigating using GPS, staring into a 3d map, not once, NOT ONCE, actually bothering to look up and study their environment. Their surroundings. We have our own GPS, our own internal compass, and yet we rely soley, without exception on these ever powerful portable computers we have stuffed in our pockets.
Of course, it doesnt end with the smartphone. There’s now tablets, and whatever your preferred flavour, there’s nothing you can’t do with a smartphone & tablet combo. I see more and more tablets ‘in the wild’ and it’s quite a sight at night, to see thousands of bright beamed devices lighting up the landscape more so, than the landmarks around them. Not that anyone would notice the landmarks however, they are too busy reviewing them on Yelp, or Oink, or some other similiar service!
I guess what I’ve noticed more & more, is we don’t seem to mind this part of our evolution. The internet has seemingly grown out of its cabled tether, and it’s now ‘us’. The internet is’nt one way. We all create content. Blogs, Tweets, Facebook posts. We’re all our own reviewer, of products, drinks, cafes, Restaurants, PEOPLE! We recommend this content to others, with each blog post or tweet feeding the next in this self serving cycle of self promotion & publicity.
We’re changing . But for the better?
From the first day’s of the Internet, where information was silo’d into a single space, usually a page or several, and a few links, we’ve evolved. We all have our own online space, we recommend videos, build apps, and have the power to make anything ‘viral’ within an afternoon. We can throw a website together within minutes. We rely on the Internet for every aspect of our social lives, and for those that are socially competent in the old fashioned real life world (World 1.0?) the Internet allows us to be extensions of ourselves. To almost be omnipotent. It’s like Avatar I guess, without the 7ft Blue Aliens.
Social butterflies darting from place to place, our lifes enhanced with this infinite connectivity. Always on, always available, always there. Like the Energizer bunny, we just can’t stop & god dam we won’t!
But I fear for people that don’t have those real world skills. Those whom trust Sat Nav and subsequently drive into a lake, than actually look up and see the lake in front of them. Those that can’t speak to someone in a bar, but are quite happy to ‘frag’ a 18 year old American over some virtual battle field whilst driving a knife into the chest of a German Sniper.
I worry that the Internet has become a ‘publicity & reputation engine’ and whilst the content diverse, the value of the information diminishes as more & more people ‘add’ to the dirge of content. We’re all so busy Linking in, Klouting, Peer indexing, Facebooking, Tweeting, Yelping, Oinking, I mean, c’mon, this is getting silly….is’nt it?
Where will be be in a decades time? What about the next generation!? I was with friends over Christmas, whose children have grown up with Skype. They communicate with their respective families in far flung lands using Skype as an everyday tool. These children think nothing of seeing their loved ones appear in a perfectly ratio’d 14:9 high res screen, as opposed to real life. Perhaps to them it is real life? Perhaps this is real life?
Google’s been watching us for years, it allows them to make better recommendations. It allow’s them to be more accurate, to serve us better & provide better services. We won’t give our bank information to someone in the street called ‘Frank’ from ‘Protect the Sanctity of the slow grown Otter’ , but we’ll happily commit every personal & private snippet of data to a company we don’t know, and not only that, we’ll thank them for it!
Facebook, carefully aggregrates our lifes and publishes the content in superior detail like a life chronical. Every photograph, every experience, every interaction, logged for prosperity!? Or something else? To get a real glimpse into the future of this time of real world data archiving, watch the Black Mirror – The Entire History of You, by the great Charlie Brooker http://www.channel4.com/programmes/black-mirror/4od#3267363
It’s been amazing to watch the Internet too, as we consume it in bite size chunks by way of an app, or a widget. We sync content to the cloud, it doesnt matter now what type of computer we use, as we just connect to the web, and carry out our tasks online. Writing documents, spreadsheets, web dev, our work, our lives, personal & business, is all done, typically via an App, & somewhere, usually online. We use Dropbox to move files from device to device, even the way we listen to music has changed. When was the last time you bought a CD? Tell the truth! Why steal it by illegally downloading when a Premium Spotify account can be yours with access to everything & anything (other music services available)
It’s the same with TV, I can’t remember the last time I watched any scheduled TV. We consume everything on demand. We watch the TV as we want, advert free and when it suits us, as we pause and time shift to get up off the couch to grab a beer and some crisps, recently delivered to us via our online Ocado account!
Anyway all I know is it’s interesting times, and that seem’s to be changing us, and the way we communicate. Think the next time you reach for the keyboard, …what exactly are you doing….and who exactly are you telling……