I was reading a book last week when I came to an obvious conclusion that changed everything. I am not a machine. So why am I trying to work like one? A paperback copy of “Technopoly” by late critic Neil Postman was in my hand, and my smartphone — screen blank and ready — was on…More
It’s obvious by now, isn’t it? Technology is making it easier than ever to be late. “Running 5 minutes behind,” goes one text I get — or write — constantly. “On my way!” reads another. We get there, we start our meeting with a rant about traffic on Interstate 5 or parking in South Lake…More
Have you ever heard of “The Interrogative Mood” by Padgett Powell? Did you know that every sentence in that book ends with a question? If I told you every sentence in this column ends with a question, would you stop reading? No? If I asked you to guess — without checking — how many unread…More
Maybe you’ve seen the video of the Seattle Metro bus riders who wrestle a gunman to the ground less than a second after he’s pointed a gun at the wrong man’s face.
That man — sitting at the right of the frame in glasses — is looking at his smartphone, ear buds in, when the video starts. The gun appears in front of him and whoa — in one swoop he juts back, reaches for the gun and gets up to shove the gunman back down the aisle.
A reader pointed out a fascinating detail: As he shoves the man back with one hand — and you can imagine this is about the point when the man wakes up to what he’s doing and that his life is at stake — he uses his other hand to put away his smartphone.More
Are apps hurting us?
It wouldn’t seem to make much sense. Apps are designed to help; that’s the whole point. The best of these portable programs solve daily problems and promise routes to solutions so direct that they sometimes seem extensions of our minds. What’s the fastest way to my house? What’s happening around me right now? What do I do with this free moment?
Use apps long enough and “Is there an app for that?” is less curiosity than expectation. Couldn’t all of life be a series of apps — every question mapped, every path to an answer charted? You start to wonder how we’d get along without apps, and why we’d ever want to.More
Clothing stores that know what you like. Self-driving cars that know where you’re going. Sensors that warn you’ll have a heart attack days before you have it. Bars that serve your favorite drink minutes before you sit down.
This isn’t fantasy. It’s the future.
It’s described in “The Age of Context,” the second book by tech enthusiast and former Microsoft evangelist Robert Scoble and business journalist Shel Israel. The book is a parade of newborn technologies and an analysis of trends in mobile, social media, data, sensors and location technology that all lead to one compelling conclusion: The world we’re headed to is a world that knows us. One where commerce, transportation, health care, service and learning are transformed by technologies smart enough to not just meet our needs but anticipate them. It’s a world where we are safer, stronger and more powerful than we ever dreamed.
But there’s a cost: For the world to open up to you, you have to open up to the world. You have to share more and more of all those trackable, quantifiable behaviors we’ve come to call your personal data.More
I got this email last week from George Hickey, who told me he’s a recently retired bus driver. Hickey read my column calling for a more honest conversation about texting and driving. Hickey’s message opened with a link to comedian Louis C.K.’s takedown of the practice on a recent episode of “Conan.” C.K. has a…More
They weren’t police, but when Beth Ebel and her team of investigators walked up and down intersections in six major counties this year, peering into car windows to count how many drivers were using their phones, some drivers dropped them. Hid them. Pretended they’d never held them.
“We in public health have this fallacy that if we tell people why they shouldn’t do things, they won’t do them,” said Ebel, a trauma doctor and director of the Injury Prevention and Research Center at Harborview Medical Center. “We’ve got to stop that.”
Today, 97.5 percent of the state’s drivers wear seat belts. When Ebel began doing research on seat-belt use in 2001, 83 percent did. One lesson from that hard-won battle: Statistics about risk and death are why we care about a problem. They’re not how we’re going to fix it.More
In Estes Park, Colo., next to mini-golf and bumper boats, there is a big, theme-park-sized slide. You pay $1 per ride and line up on the stairs. Last week I saw a teenage boy climb four stories up and send a text all the way down.
My phone was sitting untouched in a drawer at the house where we were staying, along with my laptop and associated chargers. It was the fifth day of my weeklong separation from my personal devices, timed with a family trip to the Centennial State, and this kid summed up why I had to do it in five wasted seconds.
It’s a culture shock, disconnection, if you’re as tied to your devices as I am. It slows time, amplifies your senses and actually changes how the world feels. If that sounds dramatic, try it, if you still can. I was surprised, too. Last week’s disconnection is the closest I’ve come to living in another dimension. When I came back, I knew I’d have to make some changes.More
Remember when grocery store self-checkout was the future?
The bulky talking machines have been around for more than a decade, and I’ve used them maybe four times. I finally noticed the 12 that are huddled in the University Village QFC when my husband went straight for them a few months ago. On the day of the Fremont Solstice Parade, I found myself lined up behind them at the Fremont PCC. But only because there was no other way with that crowd that I was going to pay for my sandwich in time for the naked bike ride.
There was talk in the early 2000s that self-checkout lanes would soon handle all grocery-store transactions. Now we know better. Everyone likes control and convenience, but some of us (raises hand) don’t want to do more work. Supermarkets like Boise-based Albertsons cut back on self-checkout lanes when it became clear that the machines are an option, not a revolution.More