Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Linked In

I'm making a prediction right now. Eventually, we're going to see smart phones replaced by smart watches. I'm actually surprised it hasn't happened already. I imagine it would look something like this:


I had a thought once that cell phones had successfully reduced an entire generation of people back to pocket watches. Wristwatches are a logical progression because it doesn't make sense to have to dig around in your pocket to tell the time. People wanna just look somewhere and know. That's why there's digital clocks on stoves, microwaves, coffee pots, computers and VCRS. And because that's not enough I also have an alarm clock, a clock on my wall and a wrist watch.

Let me be clear. I KNOW what time it is.

But I think the smart-watch issue is even more relevant, because if people love to do one think, they love to be on the Internet. And why shouldn't they? I've said it before and I'll say it again (right now, actually): the Internet is the most useful human invention since penicillin. Or at least the most revolutionary, because it was a game-changer in a way that not television, not the airplane, not the postal service and not even the telephone were. Alright, maybe the last two because of their basis in communication, but if you want to make that comparison, then the telephone and the postal service together are the sun and the Internet is Betelgeuse.

Note: The speck you can't see is the sun.

You can't compete with the Internet. It's more like the Industrial Revolution than a device. Type anything into Google and you'll find it. Any question on your mind or need you have. Just took a random walk through your neighborhood and want to see how many miles you went? There's a site for that. Lost your guitar tuner? Google will find one in 1/1,000,000 of a fraction of a second. For free. And that's on top of the insanely useful online library/encyclopedia that is Wikipedia and the virtual high school reunion that is Facebook, and never-ending entertainment machines like StumbleUpon and Youtube and Reddit. All free, all constantly updating. And the list goes on.

So people want to be linked in. All the time. In class, at work, at home, on a walk through the woods on a beautiful day, because "you've created such a high bar of stimulus that nothing competes." - Louis C.K. The only problem is it ties your hands up. You have to put something down to pull your smart phone out of your pocket, whether it's a sandwich, a baby or a video game controller. So put it on your wrist like you're in Fallout 3.

Only smaller.

I think the ultimate goal here is to be linked in permanently, whether we want to be or not. We're extremely social creatures, and for good reason. Without wanting and needing to be social, we never could have progressed the way we did as a species. Ray Kurzweil predicts that we will eventually merge with our technology through the use of nanobots, becoming something more than the human species that we are now (though I'm sure this is a crazy over-simplification of what he actually said). I remember reading an interview of his a few years ago where he stated that man has always been merging with his own technology, ever since we first picked up sticks and rocks and used them as tools. Now, when I see people glued to their iPhones, linked into this hivemind of the Internet, streaming information and collective experiences into their brains, I have to think he's right.

It also brings to mind "The Last Question", a short story by Isaac Asimov where (spoiler) through the ability to combine the collective consciousness of the species, the human race eventually becomes God and reverses the entropy of the universe by creating the universe anew. This to me says two things: 1: Life, in so many ways, imitates science fiction (or science fiction writers are especially prolific in their predictions of technological advancement) and 2: People sitting on toilets with smart phones playing Angry Birds and checking their Twitter are the first step in a long journey to becoming God.