When you predict the future one of two things will happen: you will either get it very right or you will get it very wrong. Somehow we don’t remember the predictions that come in halfway in between – some right/some wrong. We don’t seem to give half credit for half correct – probably because the probability of a prediction being either or is 50-50 to begin with. So it was very interesting when I read I Live in the Future by Nick Bilton recently because the book was published back in 2010 – although only six years ago it feels more like a full generation. I read it with the benefit that I know what is actually going to happen as he assumes and predicts and forecasts based on the technology he was experiencing then. Nick is the Bits Technology Blog editor for the New York Times. He has access to new gadgets and technology way ahead of the rest of us and he has an attitude of exploration and adaptation. Bilton has the credentials to make these predictions, even if the title he chose for his book had a tinge of arrogance. But then again I am old school.
Reading the book in 2016 gave me a look back and filled in some of my own technology history – somethings I did not know like the origin of “FourSqaure’s” name based on a children’s street game. That was not part of my childhood, but I understood the concept of the platform more once I read Bilton’s story. I also discovered who coined the terms “digital native” and “digital immigrant” – terms I have been using in many of my own presentations – it was Marc Prensky in the mid-1990’s! Another good story by Nick. Bilton talks about a time to come where hyper-personalization would be the range – it is but he did not see (or at least discuss in the book at any length) the controversy that would surround the trade off between this personalization and privacy. He argued that consumers would pay for digital content if it met a four-prong test – price, quality, timeliness, experience – the music industry today would greatly disagree. Nick also discusses at length this new digital generation (millennials) as “digital wanderers, popping between all different types of media, content, and experiences, and of course they are easily distracted.” His argument is that work, education, and society must change to accommodate these digital wanderers, as they are the future. I think there is a mid-way. I do not agree with the idea of throwing everything we have learned up to now regarding work, education, and life and simply adapt the new. Throughout the history of technology development, transition and balance ensure a stable adaption to the new. The “rip the band aid off approach” is not always the best strategy. There are still too many “digital immigrants” who need to be led to the cliff with patient, logic, and dare I say it – stats! One last item of disagreement is Bilton’s contention that the Internet will give equal voice to everyone. Unfortunately we are learning that that is not true – some people are heard more and louder than others. Even in the online world, marginalization still occurs.
But all that being said I enjoyed reading this book. I kept having a conversation with it, adding my own dialogue and insights based on my own experiences with technology. Bilton emphasizes that all this technology comes down to storytelling – a narrative through words, pictures, sounds, and motion.
I wondered how an update to this book would read. And then decided that Nick didn’t need to write the update as we are all writing it as we go along. After all technology is OUR story. Thanks Nick for reminding us.
The following are a few quotes from the book. Hope you enjoy and share with us your thoughts on the book below.
It wasn’t about print versus digital; it was about immediacy, details, links, interactive graphics, videos, and most importantly, hyperpersonalization. (pg. 9)
They are consumnivores – collectively rummaging, consuming, distributing, and regurgitating content in byte-size, snack-size, and full-meal packages. (pg. 15)
In the rush to adopt new ideas and innovations, we sometimes go overboard, driven not so much by the joy of discovery as by the nagging fear that maybe we will miss something important. (pg. 68)
“Who doesn’t want to be taken out of the boredom or sameness or pain of the present at any given moment? That’s what drugs are for, and that’s why people are addicted to them… Twitter is crack for media addicts.” Packer (pg. 91)
The deep connection with these devices (mobile phones) comes form the association and bond they provide to the people we love, care about and interact with on a daily basis…this device…has become an extension of our relationships. (pg. 191)
For more on this book:
Author Book Page: http://www.nickbilton.com/future/0/
Vimeo Author: https://vimeo.com/13870699
WIRED Magazine Interview: http://www.wired.com/2010/10/nick-bilton-author/
NY Times Bits by Nick Bilton: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/author/nick-bilton/?_r=0