Click here to close now.




















Welcome!

Blog Feed Post

This Week in the Future: Jerks, Tools and Tech

Steve Martin in The Jerk

Steve Martin in The Jerk

What do you think of the iPhone? What do you think of Windows 8? What do you think of the iPad mini? What do you think it means that DirectX 11.1 will be Windows 8 exclusive? What do you think of the Samsung Galaxy S3? How do you think an Ultrabook compares to a Macbook Air? Who will win? What does is mean for the future?

As you can imagine, I get questions like these all the time. From journalists to guests at cocktail parties, people are really interested in the newest device or the latest release and how it might give us a window into our technological future. They are usually very excited. I am not.

Don’t get me wrong; I love all new devices as much as everyone else. I just can’t seem to muster the breathless anticipation that this next device or release will somehow change everything. When I hear the hype and see the commercials, I think of Steve Martin yelling, “The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here!”

In 1979, Steve Martin co-wrote and starred in The Jerk, a nutty comedy directed by the great Carl Reiner. If you haven’t seen the movie or haven’t watched it lately, go and have a look. It’s a treat. Part time capsule and part laugh-out-loud comedy, it’s of a very different time but still holds up… mostly.

The scene I can’t get out of my head is when Martin’s character, Navin R. Johnson, sees that the newest edition of the phone book has arrived. He rushes to the delivery man yelling, “The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here!” He then flips to the J’s and finds his name. He’s excited because his name is now in print and big things are coming his way. It’s never a good idea to dissect a joke too much, but the crux of the absurd humor in the scene rests on the audience’s question: “Why would anyone be so excited about the newest edition of the phone book?” Indeed.

When I think about the future and what this seemingly endless parade of new smartphones, computers, tablets and software can tell us about the future is that we will reach a point when the excitement about their release will seem as silly as getting overjoyed about the phone book. “The new iPhone is here! The new iPhone is here!”

I posed this question to a roomful of futurists yesterday. Yes, it just so happened I was on a Skype call with the renowned futurist and trend spotter Faith Popcorn and her team over at the BrainReserve. I talked about The Jerk and waved my hands around yelling, “The new phonebook is here!” They smiled and replied, “It only seems like human nature. People need something tangible. People want something they can hold on to. Each new release gives them that. It’s only human.”

Faith and her team are right. People need a tangible thing. It’s as though this new product will tell them a secret about the future. By holding it in their hands, it will someone give them a glimpse of what’s to come. Simon Trewin, an agent from the William Morris Endeavor Agency in London, captured this very point when he described walking into the Apple Store in London: “It’s like you’re walking into the future,” he explained. “The way the Apple Store looks, the way it’s designed, the way it smells, the temperature… everything is done in such a way that you feel like you’ve just walked off the high street and into the future. And how that you are here if you buy something Apple gives you the promise that you can take a little piece of the future home with you.”

That’s a lovely image, but I also think that we, the buying public, are getting worn out by the hype. We know there’s going to be a new phone from Apple and Samsung and all the rest of the manufacturers. We know that each holiday season there’s going to be a new fleet of computers and tablets and gadgets to enthrall us. It’s like a weird natural cycle; winter, spring, summer, back-to-school, fall, holiday releases.

Never missing a trend, these companies are starting to make fun of each other and themselves. The Mac vs. PC TV ads highlighted this in their ongoing sly-grinned battle between Apple products and Windows-based computers. Even more pointed are the new Samsung ads that poke fun of the people waiting in line for the next release of the iPhone. They’re funny because they’re true, yet we still buy into the battle between tangible things. This thing is better than that thing. This new gadget is so much better than that old gadget you have. It’s why so many people like sports and courtroom dramas: they’re battles between two similar but opposing sides, and one person always has to win. It’s clear and easy to understand.

I think there’s something terribly wrong with this. All of this makes me think about hammers.

Technology is just a tool. Gadgets, devices, software, wed sites, apps… they’re all just tools. Technology is just a hammer. As humans, we love to admire our tools. Go to any home improvement store to catch a glimpse of this. But a tool is just a tool; a hammer is just a hammer. What’s really important is what you can do with the tool. What really makes a hammer interesting is that you can build a house with it. When we admire a tool for the tool’s sake, we miss the potential of what that tool can do for us. We miss how it can affect the lives of people. We miss the real reason why that tool is important in the first place.

What can the endless parade of gadgets, upgrades and releases teach us about the future? We may begin to feel a little absurd ourselves when we realize that we are spending a lot of time admiring hammers.

**********

DISCLAIMERI am Intel’s futurist. I am currently on sabbatical from Intel.  My thoughts, observations and analyses are mine personally and I am not speaking on behalf of Intel.

**********

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the host of Fox Television’s "Shelly Palmer Digital Living" television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.

Latest Stories
Palerra, the cloud security automation company, announced enhanced support for Amazon AWS, allowing IT security and DevOps teams to automate activity and configuration monitoring, anomaly detection, and orchestrated remediation, thereby meeting compliance mandates within complex infrastructure deployments. "Monitoring and threat detection for AWS is a non-trivial task. While Amazon's flexible environment facilitates successful DevOps implementations, it adds another layer, which can become a ...
The speed of software changes in growing and large scale rapid-paced DevOps environments presents a challenge for continuous testing. Many organizations struggle to get this right. Practices that work for small scale continuous testing may not be sufficient as the requirements grow. In his session at DevOps Summit, Marc Hornbeek, Sr. Solutions Architect of DevOps continuous test solutions at Spirent Communications, explained the best practices of continuous testing at high scale, which is rele...
"We got started as search consultants. On the services side of the business we have help organizations save time and save money when they hit issues that everyone more or less hits when their data grows," noted Otis Gospodnetić, Founder of Sematext, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, S...
With SaaS use rampant across organizations, how can IT departments track company data and maintain security? More and more departments are commissioning their own solutions and bypassing IT. A cloud environment is amorphous and powerful, allowing you to set up solutions for all of your user needs: document sharing and collaboration, mobile access, e-mail, even industry-specific applications. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Shawn Mills, President and a founder of Green House Data, discussed h...
Delphix, the market leader in Data as a Service (DaaS), has been announced winner of the DevOps Solution Award at the prestigious Computing Vendor Excellence Awards in London. The awards celebrate the achievements of the technology vendors and service providers that are leading the field of enterprise IT. Delphix was recognised as the vendor demonstrating the most effective support of DevOps culture for its ability to improve time to market and collaboration between teams.
"Our biggest growth area has been the security services, the managed services - the things that differentiate us in the market that there is no client that's too small and there's no client that's too big," explained Paul Mazzucco, Chief Security Officer at TierPoint, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 16th Cloud Expo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
The Cloud industry has moved from being more than just being able to provide infrastructure and management services on the Cloud. Enter a new era of Cloud computing where monetization’s services through the Cloud are an essential piece of strategy to feed your organizations bottom-line, your revenue and Profitability. In their session at 16th Cloud Expo, Ermanno Bonifazi, CEO & Founder of Solgenia, and Ian Khan, Global Strategic Positioning & Brand Manager at Solgenia, discussed how to easily o...
"We've just seen a huge influx of new partners coming into our ecosystem, and partners building unique offerings on top of our API set," explained Seth Bostock, Chief Executive Officer at IndependenceIT, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 16th Cloud Expo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Arch...
Sysdig has announced two significant milestones in its mission to bring infrastructure and application monitoring to the world of containers and microservices: a $10.7 million Series A funding led by Accel and Bain Capital Ventures (BCV); and the general availability of Sysdig Cloud, the first monitoring, alerting, and troubleshooting platform specializing in container visibility, which is already used by more than 30 enterprise customers. The funding will be used to drive adoption of Sysdig Clo...
The Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), which enables organizations to seamlessly run in a hybrid cloud model (public + private cloud), is here to stay. IDC estimates that the software-defined networking market will be valued at $3.7 billion by 2016. Security is a key component and benefit of the SDDC, and offers an opportunity to build security 'from the ground up' and weave it into the environment from day one. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Reuven Harrison, CTO and Co-Founder of Tufin,...
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of pro...
"We do data integration for B2B also application to application, and we do data management and enable Big Data," explained Pat Adamiak, Vice President, Product Marketing at Liaison Technologies, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 16th Cloud Expo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
"We specialize in testing. DevOps is all about continuous delivery and accelerating the delivery pipeline and there is no continuous delivery without testing," noted Marc Hornbeek, Sr. Solutions Architect at Spirent Communications, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.