Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Leave Your Mind Behind

I just got back from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas, where every screen and gizmo for sale on the planet was on display. Tens of thousands of gadget geeks from all over the world packed into casino hotels for 5 days of looking, touching, and ogling electronic equipment and in some cases people. (the International Adult Entertainment Expo or AVN happens concurrent to CES, thankfully in a totally different convention center).

Bigger, brighter, sharper high definition screens were the stars, along with smaller, smarter cameras, and MP3 players built into almost everything. (sweatbands, watches, sunglasses, hoodies). Smartphones that are more powerful computers than the 3 year old laptop you are reading this on are the next wave, and high definition video on demand to their small screens will be the norm. (at least this is what the porn people hope).

The megatrend at the show was “the merger of the three screens” i.e. your home TV, your computer and your smart phone creating “constant connectivity” making your entire life trackable, recordable, broadcasted and archived....in some cases whether you want it to be or not.

With your smartphone, which will more than likely be equipped with GPS, you and your followers will know exactly (or within 3 feet or so) where you are at any given moment...and tell you where you need to go. You can update your Facebook status (Chip is updating his Facebook status), read all of your friends Facebook status, (Gary is looking for a clean rest room in LaGuardia) and Twitter to your hearts delight. ( gary there are no clean restrooms at LaGuardia..).

From your smartphone, you can instruct your TIVO to record “House” and “Modern Marvels, How They Build the M1 Tank” while warning your wife by email that two of the shows she hates the most will be playing tonight. (“Honey, you may want to go out with the girls...”).

Meanwhile, you are alerted by one of your Wall Street banker buddies that a new edition of “Girls Gone Wild” is out, and he streams it to you from his SlingBox, a gadget that lets you rebroadcast video to anywhere on the Internet.

You look over you shoulder as you watch these two beer soaked girls try to play ping pong and you wonder if anyone knows you are watching this on your phone in the middle of the day. Of course they know....it goes on your permanent record somewhere in “the cloud” which is the cheery new term for the Big Brother database in the sky that keeps up with these things.

This scenario usually makes those of us who grew up in the TV generation sort of uncomfortable. We grew up laying on the couch passively accepting whatever drivel the networks doled out, until cable and remote controls came out, which then gave us the ability to to constantly change the channel in search of more drivel to passively absorb.

The new generation will have nothing of this. Everything is interactive. They play really intense interactive video games, they are stars of their own webpages complete with an up to date narrative of their goings on, and they are constantly texting something to someone. Passively watching anything or anybody (especially school teachers) is not their bag. Steve Ballmar, CEO of Microsoft calls this “the personal solar system” where you are literally the hub of people and information that are constantly within your purvey.

Except for the inability to pay attention to their teachers, all this interactivity is probably not such a bad thing. Recent research has shown that video games actually increase a kids intellectual and problem solving capabilities. This might be true but I just wish the kids would read more books. (They have no idea who Kurt Vonnegut is, nor do they care to read anything entitled “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”)

Ballmar says that all this connectivity will “free us from the boundaries of our own minds” and “allow us to instantly share our thoughts and experiences with hundreds, even thousands of people and get their feedback and thoughts as well”. Busy, busy, busy is all I can say.

Well I guess it time to update my Facebook status...haven’t done so in over an hour. My daughter just texted me that her iPod interface for her car is not working and one of my business associates is wanting to conduct an iChat. And just this instant, Surfline sent me an urgent email warning of a shoulder high swell at Wrightsville Beach with gentle off shore winds. 

OMG...what is a connected guy to do?!?