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
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus intern...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Progress, a global leader in application development, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enterprises today are rapidly adopting the cloud, while continuing to retain business-critical/sensitive data inside the firewall. This is creating two separate data silos – one inside the firewall and the other outside the firewall. Cloud ISVs ofte...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Systena America will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Systena Group has been in business for various software development and verification in Japan, US, ASEAN, and China by utilizing the knowledge we gained from all types of device development for various industries including smartphones (Android/iOS), wireless communication, security technology and IoT serv...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi LTD., will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) will be featuring the Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) portfolio. This is the industry’s only offering that allows organizations to bring together object storage, file sync and share, cloud storage gateways, and sophisticated search and...
The 21st International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Technologic Systems Inc., an embedded systems solutions company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Technologic Systems is an embedded systems company with headquarters in Fountain Hills, Arizona. They have been in business for 32 years, helping more than 8,000 OEM customers and building over a hundred COTS products that have never been discontinued. Technologic Systems’ pr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Carbonite will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Carbonite protects your entire IT footprint with the right level of protection for each workload, ensuring lower costs and dependable solutions with DoubleTake and Evault.
New competitors, disruptive technologies, and growing expectations are pushing every business to both adopt and deliver new digital services. This ‘Digital Transformation’ demands rapid delivery and continuous iteration of new competitive services via multiple channels, which in turn demands new service delivery techniques – including DevOps. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, panelists will examine how DevOps helps to meet th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Progress, a global leader in application development, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enterprises today are rapidly adopting the cloud, while continuing to retain business-critical/sensitive data inside the firewall. This is creating two separate data silos – one inside the firewall and the other outside the firewall. Cloud ISVs oft...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and management into a ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
As DevOps methodologies expand their reach across the enterprise, organizations face the daunting challenge of adapting related cloud strategies to ensure optimal alignment, from managing complexity to ensuring proper governance. How can culture, automation, legacy apps and even budget be reexamined to enable this ongoing shift within the modern software factory?
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ocean9will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ocean9 provides cloud services for Backup, Disaster Recovery (DRaaS) and instant Innovation, and redefines enterprise infrastructure with its cloud native subscription offerings for mission critical SAP workloads.
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...