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
Digitization is driving a fundamental change in society that is transforming the way businesses work with their customers, their supply chains and their people. Digital transformation leverages DevOps best practices, such as Agile Parallel Development, Continuous Delivery and Agile Operations to capitalize on opportunities and create competitive differentiation in the application economy. However, information security has been notably absent from the DevOps movement. Speed doesn’t have to negat...
IoT offers a value of almost $4 trillion to the manufacturing industry through platforms that can improve margins, optimize operations & drive high performance work teams. By using IoT technologies as a foundation, manufacturing customers are integrating worker safety with manufacturing systems, driving deep collaboration and utilizing analytics to exponentially increased per-unit margins. However, as Benoit Lheureux, the VP for Research at Gartner points out, “IoT project implementers often ...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform and how we integrate our thinking to solve complicated problems. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm ...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, provided tips on how to be successful in large scale machine learning...
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
Your business relies on your applications and your employees to stay in business. Whether you develop apps or manage business critical apps that help fuel your business, what happens when users experience sluggish performance? You and all technical teams across the organization – application, network, operations, among others, as well as, those outside the organization, like ISPs and third-party providers – are called in to solve the problem.
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Roundee / LinearHub will exhibit at the WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LinearHub provides Roundee Service, a smart platform for enterprise video conferencing with enhanced features such as automatic recording and transcription service. Slack users can integrate Roundee to their team via Slack’s App Directory, and '/roundee' command lets your video conference ...
Digital transformation is too big and important for our future success to not understand the rules that apply to it. The first three rules for winning in this age of hyper-digital transformation are: Advantages in speed, analytics and operational tempos must be captured by implementing an optimized information logistics system (OILS) Real-time operational tempos (IT, people and business processes) must be achieved Businesses that can "analyze data and act and with speed" will dominate those t...
The Jevons Paradox suggests that when technological advances increase efficiency of a resource, it results in an overall increase in consumption. Writing on the increased use of coal as a result of technological improvements, 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons found that these improvements led to the development of new ways to utilize coal. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy Officer for Apcera, will compare the Jevons Paradox to modern-day enterprise IT, e...
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate a...
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes ho...
SYS-CON Events announced today the Kubernetes and Google Container Engine Workshop, being held November 3, 2016, in conjunction with @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This workshop led by Sebastian Scheele introduces participants to Kubernetes and Google Container Engine (GKE). Through a combination of instructor-led presentations, demonstrations, and hands-on labs, students learn the key concepts and practices for deploying and maintainin...
Without a clear strategy for cost control and an architecture designed with cloud services in mind, costs and operational performance can quickly get out of control. To avoid multiple architectural redesigns requires extensive thought and planning. Boundary (now part of BMC) launched a new public-facing multi-tenant high resolution monitoring service on Amazon AWS two years ago, facing challenges and learning best practices in the early days of the new service. In his session at 19th Cloud Exp...