In Vegas for the CES, it is exhausting. I skipped last year but didn’t feel I missed anything. I was not a fan of 3D TV and not impressed with the Microsoft / Ford automobile operating system. It has been a crazy first week this Jan with lots of management stuff to get done as well as finalizing the March issue of MISC magazine to print. It is the GADGET issue. Very happy with it and couldn’t wait to see it out in bookstores and newsstands in eight weeks.
Here I am prepared to be exposed to all kinds of crazy gadgets once I set foot on CES, as usual many are useless and hopeless. There is distinction between the two. “Useless” is product that does not answer to any customer unmet needs, it is just novelty. “Hopeless” is me-too product that tries to compete on price. I hate to think how many tablets will end up going to the landfill. With no Apple presence, it is like everyone here is try to compete with Apple. It is the world against Apple.
Many of these consumer electronic gadgets solve our problems. Problems that we know and problems that we know we have. Often they create new ones while solving the old ones. Humans are supposed to be good at problem solving but we’ve become so reliant on the gadgets in our lives that there are problems we find ourselves unable to solve without them. Sometime in the not too distant future gadgets will not just respond to our commands, they will be able to understand our mood, read our minds and learn our preferences.
When I was sitting at Starbucks, my mind was trying to visually map all those data exchanges between Macs, tablets, mobile devices, watches, cameras, and people. The visual just blows my mind and we forgot how crazy and connected we are.
Never before we have that much access (and speed) to information and knowledge at the palm of our hands and we can almost (yes almost) live our lives without thinking. We tether our brains and other senses to our smart devices and relying on them to tell us when we’re sad, confused, tired, hungry, where to go and what to buy. How far are we before we’re ready to raise the white flag and formally “surrender” to our cognitive independence? What about humanity?
We are living in a technology-addled age, our gadgets are necessity. I wonder what’s the average number of apps for iPhone users? And how many of them they rely on in their everyday lives? We are becoming lazy. We do less walking because we have cars. Now we do less thinking because we have smart gadgets. Your brain is like a muscle. If you stop using your cognitive skills and instead rely on gadgets to do the thinking for you, in time, those skills will start to atrophy. For me, I used to be able to do complicated calculation looking at tons of numbers and within a few minutes come to sense of what it is telling me. Now I can’t even add up a restaurant bill without a calculator (app). I used to be able to map out the route mentally when I drive from one place to another, now I just listen to the command of my GPS. I used to be able to spell and thanks to auto correction, my spelling is worst than when I was 12.
May be the next innovation is not a product. Just like we’re try gin to think of ways to encourage people to walk or bike to make us more healthier and do less damage to our environment, we should be thinking about applying design thinking to help us to use our brain more – and use less gadgets. What does computational humanity means? Time to get back to the show.