That visionary observation from 50 years ago has even more meaning today. Most of the world is focused on how “we shape our tools”, including how to make and use the vast cornucopia of tools across all facets of life, business, government, society, etc. Meanwhile, our behaviors, attitudes, society and culture are unconsciously shaped by the tools/technologies we use.
Digital technology represents an overabundance of rapidly shaping and changing tools. Now, even tools are shaping other tools. We need to remember that our behaviors and attitudes are shaped by the tools/technologies we use, but they are shaped through our senses which plugs into our unconscious and are not directly available to us consciously, which make how they shape us harder to perceive.
We are at the beginning of an ever faster rate of hyper-change. AI, robotics, gene editing, designer babies, genetically "improved" humans, bio enhancements, self-driving cars, the end of work… and a very long list of other new tools that are about to disrupt and re-shape almost everything… at essentially the same time. The biggest and fastest changes in the history of the world. How will the world deal with that much hyper-change all at once?
“…and, thereafter, our tools shape us.” As we shape our tools faster than ever, our tools are shaping us faster than ever, as well.
Smartphones didn’t exist 10 years ago, now 2 billion people are using them, which is about 1/3rd of the earth’s population. As a result 1 in 3 people are now hunched over there phones in a way that is bad for their posture, distracts them from potentially dangerous situations, and comes across as very anti-social… to people that are present, not the crowd of avatars on social networks.
When 1/3rd of the world changes their body position and the way they communicate I consider it an anthropological-level event. Those kind of global changes used to take thousands of years. Now it takes less than 10. That’s hyper-change.
There needs to be a lot more discussion and research about what those shapes and changes are, and what impact they might have in the all-too-near future. We need to try and control our technological destiny before it controls us.
The technology tools that we are shaping and that are now starting to shape us are at the edges of our comprehension. These will happen so fast it will soon make us question the very nature of what it means to be human. We have to understand how tools are shaping us, and how to cope with that shaping in the time of hyper-change.
I first fell in love with Apple in 1978. I was 23. So was Steve Jobs. Woz was about 5 years older. Apple had the look and feel of a counter-culture renegade company that was on an almost subversive plan that would allow people to own powerful computers that were previously only available to corporations… power to the people!
I do understand brand value, as well as valuable brands, and I'll admit I hold Apple to a higher standard. I felt Apple used to meet that standard, and the higher prices still delivered tremendous value because of their innovation, functionality and comparable value.
I sold my car (Volvo station wagon) to buy an Apple II in 1978... it had 16K of RAM, you had to save your programs and data on an audio cassette tape, you had to use a TV with an RF-modulator as the display... and it cost over $2,000! That was a lot in 1978... adjusting for inflation, that would be around $7,500 in today's dollars. Yikes! Everyone thought I had gone totally crazy. My wife at the time was against it, but I did it anyway (I made it up to her, largely from stuff I did with the Apple II).
I gambled my life on that ugly beige box. But to me it was beautiful, sublime, and magical. I had learned programming in the 60's as a young kid... the popular computer back then was the IBM 360, which came with 16K memory, and would set you back about $250,000. The price I paid for my Apple II was about 1% of the cost of an IBM 360. So in that respect it was a tremendous value!
An individual never had the opportunity to own a computer of any kind... so this was a huge innovation. Microsoft started as a third-party Apple II developer. Apple was creating a new industry thanks to the two Steve's incredible innovation.
Then Woz designed the 5 1/4 Apple II floppy disk, another huge innovation. Game changing. Insanely great. The market was disrupted once again, with Apple's innovation offering a previously unavailable technology at a price that someone could actually afford. Apple became the world's largest manufacturer of floppy disk drives overnight.
Then along came a long line of Apple II's, and the flops, like the Apple /// and the Lisa. Even though the Lisa flopped, it was still hugely innovative... it's where the Mac came from.
And then they did it again. 1984. The Macintosh. Still expensive at $2,000... about $4,500 in today's dollars. But again, what a value! The only thing like it was the Xerox Star, a corporate computer that cost $75,000 dollars! So a Mac cost only 2.5% of what a Xerox Star cost. Another tremendous value.
I was so excited and when I manage to smuggled a Mac out of Apple before the release in a black plastic trash bag. I knew I was holding the future in that trash bag. I’m so thankful to my friends at Apple who helped me get ahold of the Mac early. I knew they were risking their careers to help our Apple magazine, A+, be the only other magazine to have an issue out about the Mac when it launched.
Back then getting out of Apple was almost impossible, let alone the hugely secret ground-breaking, revolutionary Macintosh. It was high drama with a smattering of corporate espionage… my A+ team felt like rebel fighters on a mission to bring the truth to the public. We were the like the Blues Brothers… we were on a mission from God. That’s how big a freaking deal the Macintosh was to each of us personally and to our team as a whole.
And again! This time it was the LaserWriter a year later. Another product that changed my life... I wrote one of the first books on desktop publishing and was the first one to use it to produce a national magazine (MacUser).
How much was a LaserWriter? A whopping $6,995. But what an amazing value! You'd have to buy a printing press to get similar results, not to mention the typesetting, page layout that involved cutting and pasting with real scissors... talk about labor intensive! I know, because we printed a lot of magazines back then.
When I told the production guys at Ziff Davis that I was going to use desktop publishing to produce MacUser they damned the idea insisting it was impossible. I told them that if they didn't save at least $1 million dollars in color separation layout charges alone, I would be glad to resign. Thankfully Bill Ziff backed me up and overruled them. And it worked. A few years later I got to see the whole company switch over... loved seeing them haul out the old Atex system from PC Week (the last to go DTP).
Yet again, despite being the most expensive product Apple had ever sold, it was a game changer that caused a huge disruption in the printing and publishing industries. Another product with outstanding innovation that was insanely great. Magical. And a tiny fraction of the cost of what it replaced.
iPod. Boom! Another major innovation that destroys Walkman, cassette players, and portable CD players market. And the beginning of Apple's locking people into their ecosystem by making switching costs high (investment in iTunes purchases).
Next, the biggest bang of all, the iPhone! It screamed innovation. I got it the first day it came out. It was magical. It was insanely great. It was like something from the future. It could do what no other phone could ever do. The innovation was so great that it completely disrupted and changed the telecommunications industry forever. Another game changer. I fell like it delivered a ton more value than the top-of-the-line Motorola cell phone I had been using.
Steve died. It did make a big difference to Apple. No-one else could ever fill his shoes and drive the company as a united force focused exclusively on innovation. He was unique. Apple will never be the same.
I haven't seen anything insanely great since Steve died. The Apple watch? This is not a game-changing, magical, insanely great product. No way. And today's iPhone is still pretty much Steve's original iPhone with a bunch of iterations.
Without the maniacal drive toward innovation that Steve didn't just bring to Apple, but demanded from Apple. And got from Apple.
Show me another insanely great product from Apple. Something magical. A game-changer. Immediately recognizable as massively innovative. The kind of thing that Steve did over and over again. Show me that, and I'll be a believer again. I dare you.
I miss that magic. I want Apple to blow me away like they used to do again and again. The reason I switched to the Moto X from an iPhone 5 last year is because the Moto X was more magical with its voice control and context processor. Apple, I want technology leadership, not a luxury brand (the former CEO of Burberry is now in charge of Apple stores). And I certainly don't want Beats headphones... yuk. Apple, I want magic again! Please, Apple, please!
I don't like places that are starting to ban Glass. My Glass is permanently attached to my face, I don't think I could remove it if I was told to ;-)
More importantly, I think this is just plain wrong, and feels like a violation of my rights on a number of levels. First off, since I'm a journalist (among other things) this seems like a clear violation of the First Amendment, yes the very first, that protects freedom of speech and freedom of the the press.
Only if I ALWAYS wear Glass can I be assured of using Glass to capture and share media events as they happen. And also perform real-time research using the powerful "OK, Glass, Google" feature. Preventing that clearly seems like a restriction on the media (press).
But not everyone's a media person... or are they? You are the new media brand when you post to social networks. Does that count in this new socially mediated world where the consumer is now a content creator and distributor (publisher)?
I think there should be no issue about me capturing my life for myself in any manner that I feel helps make my life better. I think there is a very important distinction between capturing and sharing that has become lost in the debate... I think for most people the issues are about sharing that content without the subject's permission. I'm concerned about that, too!OK, screw the First Amendment and it's freedom of speech and of the press. What about my rights as an individual? In this not-so-brave new world personal data capture seems like a basic right.
But guess what? There are already laws to prevent publication of people's images without their permission... I would need a release for from you before I would be able to publish it. I don't see why those same laws wouldn't apply to personal publishing as well. I know posting/publishing without releases has become rampant, but maybe a combination of lawsuits and respect for other people will help stem that.
What's mine is mine, and I should be able to experience life with whatever technological enhancements I decide are helpful to more fully experience the world and the people around me. This is my life, and I'll digitize it if I want to!
I guess this makes me a total glasshole, but I think we should fight for our right to wear Glass!
Here's the audio track of a great conversation I had back in 2012 with my good friend Robert Scoble at his home in Half Moon Bay, CA. We talked a lot about context, since this was right before he announced the Age of Context book he is doing with Shel Israel. In this conversation Robert and I talked about the contextual web, Google Glass (long before we had it), privacy, personas, contextual content, contextual marketing, and why we need to start building some open standards regarding how context is discovered, communicated, and permissioned. Even though this discussion was over a year ago, I think a lot of what we talked about is still quite relevant.
Note: To hear the audio just click on the play button or links in Robert's post... his post is embedded as a live object.
I'm still trying to post some of the highlights from my old blog, and thought you might be interested in seeing this episode of the TV show "The Silicon Valley Entrepreneur" where I'm interviewed by Chris Gill, CEO of SVForum. The show originally aired on May 2, 2012