We need a barefoot internet
|October 18, 2011||Posted by Sophy Bot under Internet culture, Mobile technology|
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The absurdity of praising the technological prowess of a landline telephone, a light bulb or a car shows just how far these previous wonders of technology have been ingrained into our lives – we don’t even notice them anymore. At the point when a piece of technology reaches 100% familiarity (and nearly 100% adoption), it ceases to be technology; it simply becomes another tool in the arsenal of our everyday existence. Put in another way, technology is “anything that was invented after you were born.”¹ So while many of us still marvel at the wonder that is the internet, to today’s kids it’s just where you go to talk with friends and watch movies. But has it gone so far that the internet and its corresponding devices are no longer considered technology? Well, not quite yet.
Consider this: mobile data traffic more than doubled over the last 12 months. Why? According to a recently released report by Ericsson, it’s largely to do with “factors including screen size, age and price” of smartphones. As mobile technology continues to advance, the devices are getting better, cheaper and easier to use, so much so that our overall rate of usage can still double in just one year’s time. Similarly, tablets are being adopted at a faster rate than any device in history and will continue to do so, especially considering that cheaper devices such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire were only recently released and aggressively priced competitors have yet to hit the market en masse. Until that growth levels off, we’ll still be talking about “technology.”
Or, consider this: Apple’s newly released iPhone 4S unveiled an entirely new way of using our devices through its AI-enabled, voice recognition assistant, Siri. Of course, Siri is not the first app to use voice recognition, but it is the first to combine that recognition with artificial intelligence and to make it a standard application on a mass market device. A recent article in Techland had this to say about it:
“One of the most impressive elements of Siri is not just the ability to do voice-to-text dictation, but its ability to turn natural-language directives into action. What I mean by that is that I can use my voice to say, “Remind me to feed my goats when I get home.” Because Siri is trained to know where my house is and the iPhone 4S has GPS, the second I drive into my driveway, I get a reminder that tells me to feed the goats. I live on a farm and this is quite handy for me.”
If our internet-enabled devices were fully integrated into our lives, this Siri example wouldn’t even be worth mentioning. But although the existence of the internet and ubiquitous computing devices may not be considered “technology” by a generation of kids who have never known their absence, we’ve still got a ways to go before their actual usage becomes so seamless that we don’t even notice it anymore. The first few decades of computer development were centered on performance – faster, better, smaller, cheaper. Now, the next stage in development must turn its focus to the interface. Not until the mouse and the keyboard fully disappear will we stop calling it “technology” and start thinking of it as an integrated part of our day-to-day lives.
There’s an old Taoist saying that “when the shoe fits, the foot is forgotten.” In other words, when something is completely comfortable, we stop noticing that it’s even there. When it comes to the internet, we’re still wearing clogs. It’s only when we learn how to walk barefoot that the technology will cease to exist and we can truly discover its utility. After all, when you pick up the phone to order a pizza, you don’t spend any time thinking about how amazing it is that you can do so – you just do it. Right now we’re still at the point where we’re marveling at Siri’s ability to do the same. Only when we stop noticing it will we unleash the true potential of having the internet fully integrated into our lives. Until then, we’re still upgrading clogs.
¹ quote by Alan Kay
Photo credit: chispita_666