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I, Robot

Optimize Blog - March 5, 2012 - 0 comments

The fundamental obstacle to understanding where technology culture is heading is that increasingly, it’s about everything. The vaguely intimidating twenty-somethings who we see in technology companies juggling coffee cups, iPad 2s and the next ‘latest gadget’, are no longer content with transforming that part of your life you spend at your computer, or even on your Smartphone. They herald the final disappearance of the boundary between “life online” and “real life”, between the physical and the virtual. It suggests that the days of “the internet” as an identifiably separate thing may be behind us.
If Web 2.0 was the moment when the collaborative promise of the internet seemed finally to be realized Web 3.0 is the moment they forget they’re doing it. When the GPS system in your phone or iPad can relay your location to any site or device you like, when Facebook uses facial recognition on photographs posted there, when your financial transactions are tracked, and when the location of your car can influence a constantly changing, sensor-driven congestion-charging scheme, all in real time, something has qualitatively changed.
You’re still using the web, but without the conscious need to do so. Our phones and tablets are being turned into eyes and ears for applications – motion and location sensors tell where we are, what we’re looking at, and even how fast we’re moving . . . Increasingly, the web is the world – an aura of data, which when captured and processed intelligently, offers extraordinary opportunity and mindbending implications.
Alarming ones, too, of course, if you don’t know exactly what’s being shared with whom. Apparently credit card companies can predict with 98% accuracy, two years in advance, when a couple is going to divorce, based on spending patterns alone.
A related danger of the merging of online and offline life, says business thinker Tony Schwartz, is that we come to treat ourselves, in subtle ways, like computers. We drive ourselves to cope with ever-increasing workloads by working longer hours, sucking down coffee and spurning recuperation. But “we were not meant to operate as computers do,” Schwartz says. “We are meant to pulse.” When it comes to managing our own energy, he insists, we must replace a linear perspective with a cyclical one: “We live by the myth that the best way to get more work done is to work longer hours.”
Schwartz cites research suggesting that we should work in periods of no greater than 90 minutes before seeking rest. Whatever you might have been led to imagine by the seeping of digital culture into every aspect of daily life you are not, ultimately, a computer.

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