7 insights from the future we live in

Nick Bilton’s new book I live in the future & here’s how it works is well-written with lots of examples and scientific research. Bilton is the lead tech blogger for the New York Times. He doesn’t subscribe to the paper, though, because he gets his news filtered through his social feeds (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, his local Brooklyn neighbourhood blog).

For those of you who already live in this new digital world, there won’t be much new here, except good examples to explain it to your friends. As with most books, by the time they’re published, the contents aren’t new, but here are some of the topics he treats:

1. Traditional media sources have made the publisher the trusted brand. Online these stories are being filtered to you through any number of delivery channels, as original information may have been forwarded several times. We develop specific areas in which we trust info forwarded by our friends, family, peers, and specific “experts”. Bilton looks specifically for media coverage by the columnist David Carr or simple recipes from Mark Bittman or Gary Vaynerchuk who developed Wine Library TV, his own online network of wine reviews with 80 000 viewers.

2. If you’re having arthroscopic surgery, the most relevant question for you to ask may be how many hours per week he/she plays videogames. Research shows a strong correlation between operation success and video game playing.

3. If you want to get the latest information, follow Twitter updates. This is the retweet revolution. As Bilton says:

This swarmlike behaviour does more than spread important news. It also dissipates our fears of information overload or the converse, that we may be missing something. When members of my ‘anchored community’ let me know that certain products are worth consuming, I trust their recommendation because the social networks I’ve set up have been selected by me.

4. People will pay for content. But many publishers don’t get it. In 2010 publishers still made books available only in hardback for the first four months. Bilton asks if you are really going to get in your car and drive to a bookstore, or will you just buy something else from the digital bookstore. People will pay for content if the experience is good enough. iTunes displaced a large amount of music theft because it was simple, fast, consistent high quality and the easiest way to get music on your iPod, and the US$0.99 charge was reasonable.

5. Bilton hypothesises that mobile phones as “transitional objects” for young digital
natives, a psychological term applied to teddy bears and blankets. Transitional objects create familiarity and comfort and also help develop connections. Our constant companion, the mobile phone, connects us to info and people. He speculates that mobile phones may become the single most important device in our lives.

6. One study showed that students who watched a film on the iPod versus a TV screen
found the iPod experience twice as immersive. Why? Because using headphones with an iPod effectively closed out the rest of the world.

7. One potential future scenario Bilton imagines is one in which:

…you’re reading a new food recipe on your computer at work. When you get home your TV should know that you’ve read the article and automatically show you video clips of the recipe on this new screen. As your phone is in the same room with you, the TV can send the recipe to your phone so you can pick up ingredients at the grocery store…Technology that responds to your precise location will be in the next wave of products.

Bilton believes that what this boils down to is the fact that:

All this technological upheaval is taking us to a world rich in new and different experiences. Already, the Web and digital devices have changes how and where you read, watch, and listen and what you read, watch and listen to. They have changed the communities you interact with. They have rearranged your brain cells and the way you think about everything from maps and locations to friends and relationships. They have shifted your approach to the world from a third-person perspective to a first-person one – and a hyper personal one at that.



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