September 18, 2013 at 9:00 AM
How else could he have predicted with such eerie precision, in his 2001 Newsweek column Time To Do Everything But Think, how our devices would direct our minds?
Somewhere up in the canopy of society, way above where normal folks live, there will soon be people who live in a state of perfect wirelessness. They’ll have mobile phones that download the Internet, check scores and trade stocks. They’ll have Palm handhelds that play music, transfer photos and get Global Positioning System readouts. They’ll have laptops on which they watch movies, listen to baseball games and check inventory back at the plant. In other words, every gadget they own will perform all the functions of all the other gadgets they own, and they will be able to do it all anywhere, any time.
Keep in mind: Brooks, who has spent a decade writing columns for The New York Times, wrote this piece three years before Facebook, six years before the iPhone and two years after the introduction of a simple email pager known as the BlackBerry.
Further down in the essay, Brooks continues:
Never being out of touch means never being able to get away. But Wireless Man’s problem will be worse than that. His brain will have adapted to the tempo of wireless life. Every 15 seconds there is some new thing to respond to. Soon he has this little rhythm machine in his brain. He does everything fast. He answers e-mails fast and sloppily. He’s bought the fastest machines, and now the idea of waiting for something to download is a personal insult. His brain is operating at peak RPMs.
He sits amid nature’s grandeur and says, “It’s beautiful. But it’s not moving. I wonder if I got any new voice mails.” He’s addicted to the perpetual flux of the information networks. He craves his next data fix. He’s a speed freak, an info junkie. He wants to slow down, but can’t.
Big thanks to reader Mark Fussell, a technology writer who attached the essay in an email response to my recent column about digital disconnection. “I find it more than prescient,” Fussell said about the piece. “He underestimated the impact of technology.”
Brooks’ ending is kind of genius:
So here’s how I’m going to get rich. I’m going to design a placebo machine. It’ll be a little gadget with voice recognition and everything. Wireless People will be able to log on and it will tell them they have no messages. After a while, they’ll get used to having no messages. They’ll be able to experience life instead of in-formation. They’ll be able to reflect instead of react. My machine won’t even require batteries.
February 4, 2013 at 12:15 PM
The future of libraries — the subject of my latest column — has been on the minds of a few writers around the country lately. And no wonder: Last week was the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association, held right here in Seattle.
Seattle tends to turn up in the conversation.
The Atlantic zeroed in on grants the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation announced last week to libraries in the Northwest. The foundation is awarding several tech-based grants, but recognizing that the librarian could be the heart of the future library, many encourage good old-fashioned relationship building:
…One of the major investments the foundation is making this year is in a readers’ advisory program that will pair library patrons in Multnomah, Oregon, with librarians who will personally assist them with reading choices, building long-term relationships that will ideally transcend any technological innovations. It builds on a program at the Seattle Public Library in which readers submit answers to a short questionnaire to get advice from individual librarians on what they might want to read next. The new Oregon program will be designed as a model that librarians around the country can look to.
January 16, 2013 at 5:32 PM
Brothers James and Tom Potter, originally from Issaquah, have created an app called TrailMix that makes the songs on your iPhone or iPod match the tempo of your run or jog. Select a playlist through the app and it will automatically find tracks that match the speed of your steps. Play individual tracks and it will speed up or slow down the songs according to your rhythm.
You have to give it a second to change the tempo when you go from a trot to a run, but I just tried it with a couple tracks and yeah — it’s nice to move to music that keeps up with you for a change.
I put it in the category of tools I would have never thought to ask for, but am glad someone thought to build.
James, 23, lives in Chicago. Tom, 20, is a student in Walla Walla.
Thanks to Mary Saylor for the tip!
Know someone in the Northwest with a cool story, app or project around self-improvement tech? Email me at email@example.com. I’ll be featuring neat ideas from our region all month.
November 26, 2012 at 4:17 PM
Cyber Monday is great, she argues, but whatever happened to picking up something nice at your neighborhood store?
Today is Cyber Monday, the day after the Thanksgiving weekend when all good workers hope their bosses don’t catch them buying presents online. I’m asking you to join me in resisting the impulse to do your Christmas shopping in a flurry of clicks. Instead, figure out a way to get to your favorite little shops, ones that would deal you a body blow were you to discover they’ve vanished.
Having just sent my family a Pinterest board of things I want for Christmas, I hear what she’s saying. But I think there’s a happy medium here.
While there are of course plenty of brick-and-mortar Seattle businesses for whom the Internet is competition, there are also plenty of store owners whose websites contribute in a big way to the bottom line, not to mention communities of local artisans for whom the Internet is the only way they can have a business in the first place.
Want to support Seattle business will staying cyber this Cyber Monday? You absolutely can.
Here’s just a sampling of the online Seattle city and neighborhood hot spots you’ve recommended so far on Facebook and Twitter:
Check out the EtsyRAIN group of Seattle-area artists and craft makers. Some of them have brick and mortar shops, but many are online only. – Elaine Helm
I happen to love Third Place Books - Tassoula Kokkoris
Archie McPhees! – Dixon Hamby
Blue Highway Games, great game shop in upper Queen Anne. Their best seller lists help me know what to pick for gifts – Karen Gaudette
Of course, nothing beats browsing real life shelves in the real life world. Times editorial board writer Thanh Tan suggests you start at the Seattle Good Business Network’s Think Local site, and see where it takes you.
November 5, 2012 at 11:23 AM
A couple weeks ago I posted about one of those hilarious, addictive Tumblr blogs — this one a spot-on sendup of my generation called “Fairy Tales for Twentysomethings.”
Among the posts: “The prince and the pauper unfriended each other on Facebook because neither one could stand the other’s political status updates.”
I reached out to the creator, just in case he’d be willing to let us take a quick peek behind the scenes.
And what do you know — 27-year-old Tim Manley, of Queens, N.Y., was only too happy to oblige.
Check out the blog if you haven’t already. See if you don’t laugh out loud after a few posts (he illustrated the recent ones). Then come back and get the scoop …
October 22, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Oh, no. They’ve got us.
A Tumblr blog called “Fairy Tales for Twentysomethings” has captured the wandering, self-reflective, digitally amplified WTF-ness of my generation. I’m serious. It’s re-imagined chunks of fairy tales (some in 140 characters, no less) so that Peter Pan starts a Twitter account to feel more professional and Snow White gets over her Prince Charming blahs by looking at pictures of Ryan Gosling.
“I feel like I know every one of these people,” a user posted on Reddit.
A few samples:
The prince and the pauper unfriended each other on Facebook because neither one could stand the other’s political status updates.
sleeping beauty fell back into a funk and shut herself away in her room for days listening only to adele.
it was time to go to bed but cinderella kept reloading her facebook page, hoping one more person would like the link she’d posted to her photography.
the ugly duckling always felt gross compared to everyone else. but then she got instagram and there’s this one filter that makes her look awesome.
See? TOLD you.
I’ve got an email out to the creators asking more about who they are and whether they, like Cinderella, hover over social media sites to see how many likes they get. Will update if I hear back.
September 26, 2012 at 1:26 PM
You always hear about cyberbullying. And you should. Forty-three percent of teens have been victims of some form of cyberbullying over the last year, according to the National Crime Prevention Council.
But then there’s this story.
High schoolers in the small town of West Branch, Mich., thought it would be funny to vote an unpopular girl, Whitney Kropp, as homecoming queen. She was humiliated — who wouldn’t be? But instead of succumbing to the kind of despair that tears up so many teens, she embraced the title. Pretty soon, so did the town.
Local businesses have donated products and services to prep her for Friday’s homecoming game, including a red dress and a ride in a convertible. Residents have pledged to pack the bleachers with T-shirts that read, “Team Whitney.” The Facebook page fueling the support picked up, as the Detroit News noted, “more likes than the town has people.”
September 18, 2012 at 1:15 PM
If reading other people’s rants ever feels like it makes your brain hurt, there may be a reason why.
Seattle’s Sara Kiesler pointed out new research highlighted in Inc. magazine that suggests that being exposed to too much complaining can “turn your brain to mush,” according to Trevor Blake, author of the book “Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life”.
The research focuses on complaints in the office (Blake apparently is a serial entrepreneur), but it makes you wonder about how our brains react when we encounter intense negativity online, especially around touchy topics like politics.
“Seems like interesting fodder in a time when we hide Facebook posters who gripe too much and skip over the comments beneath online news articles,” Sara wrote in an email. Her subject line: “Maybe this is why we hate reading comments so much?”