One of the things I think I can do pretty well is to look at technology innovations and try to determine how they might affect society. This all started with cell phones. I didn’t see that one coming but I did realize how radically they are changing the world.
For example, a trip to the mall with a group of people is very different now. Before cell phones if you had to split up the group to go into different stores, you had to arrange for a time and place to meet up again. Today, you just say call (or text) me when you are ready to meet up again. It’s a small things but it changes the whole dynamics of that activity.
Let me give you an example of how I do this process. I look at something called the Ripple Effect. Basically that means that the effects of a technology become more wide reaching as time goes on. It spreads through society like ripples on a pond.
The story I linked to below talks about how companies are building tiny cameras into sunglasses allowing you to record whatever you look at. It doesn’t seem like a big deal right? I mean most of us have cell phones that can do the same thing. Here’s where it is different and what it means in the longer term.
Here’s a video of what it looks like.
The big difference from a cell phone camera is the video would be always on. You record everything you see. When we still had cameras with film in them, you had to choose what to take pictures of carefully. Today you just take a ton of pictures knowing that many of them will be bad. It doesn’t matter though. I noticed this when taking pictures of my 1 year old niece. If you take enough pictures, you will get some great ones! Then just delete the rest.
If you are always recording video, it opens up some interesting uses. You are much more likely to capture spontaneous moments. Once an Internet connection is included in these devices you will be able to stream what you are seeing live. With enough online storage, we will be able to archive video stream. Right now nobody would want to do this but couple this with computer video recognition technology. The means the computer would look at your footage and recognize what is happening. This means it is searchable. Apple is already doing this to a certain extent with photos. Right now with iPhoto you can tag your face and it will find you in the rest of your photos. I’m sure you will be able to do this with video pretty soon. It’s a function of computer power.
Now what? Everyone will be able to have a live or recorded stream of video information that is searchable. Who will be interested in that information and what can you do with it?
In Neal Stephenson’s book Snow Crash there were people called Gargoyles. These were people who walked around with full audio and video broadcast capabilities. They were always trying to get to news stories and then the news services would pay them for the stream. This has happened before of course. Amateur video and photos are sold to news people all the time. The difference here is the ability to do it live. What else can you do with it? Well it would be interesting to be able to take virtual tours of places. There are webcams all over the Internet but these would be mobile.
Unfortunately this would mean a further blow against the concept of privacy. When I go to Walt Disney World pretty much everyone has a camera. I bet that place is one of the most photographed places on Earth. So how many of those photos am I in? I don’t mean pictures where I am the subject, I mean ones where I am in the background? I bet it’s more than a few. What if you could do facial recognition of Flickr? How many pictures would you be in?
These are just some of the ways this technology will be used. Once videos are searchable, it opens up a whole new field of information which people will mash together. Just look at the quantity of music services now. Pandora, Spotify, iTunes etc…
So that is how I think about technology. Sir Ken Robinson called this Divergent Thinking.
Interestingly, he mentions that all children can do this when they enter schools, but when they graduate they can’t nearly as well. Seems to me this is a problem.
There are many other technologies that will have even more impact on our society. We have to get our children ready to cope with them. This means an education system that focuses on individuals not groups, on skills more than facts, success more than equality, and creativity more than standards.