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How Connected is TOO Connected?

By baberg in Technology
Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 02:29:32 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

That Other Site has an article about the latest generation of wearable computers. Apparently there was a fashion show sponsored by Charmed Technologies displaying good looking women wearing portable computers. But is this level of connectedness going too far? Do you really need to check e-mail while walking to get a bite to eat?


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Since pagers came out, followed by cellular phones and now PDAs with interconnectivity, there has been a growing need for people to "get connected" with the internet, friends, or family. But is this all coming too fast?

Imagine, now, that you could be walking down the street reading K5 on your own personal computer, complete with headgear reminiscent of the movie Hackers. How much attention could you possibly be paying to the people around you, to the crosswalk sign telling you to "Don't Walk", or to the car barrelling down the road because they may be a few seconds late to an informal lunch date (or worse, they're browsing K5 as well). There has already been some discussion on this topic recently on K5, but only regarding cellular phones. Portable computers (while still in development stages) can only add to distractions, and that level of distraction is only going to cause trouble.

Of course, this is just worse-case. I'm not a Luddite, I have a PDA and cell phone myself. I value being connected. I can see the benefits; for example, if there were a constantly updated analysis of traffic patterns during rush hour, there would be a lot less stress in my life. But the problem that I see is that many people may not learn how to integrate the new technologies into their lives. If the phone rings, you do not have to pick it up. If you get an e-mail, you do not have to read it immediately.

What do you think? Am I just a doomsayer, touting all the horrible things that only could happen, but with training and a little common sense, could be avoided? Or is there a possibility that I'm right, and this new wave of technology will require a complete re-thinking of how hhigh tech devices fit into our lives?

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How Connected is TOO Connected? | 43 comments (37 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Tech Coutre (3.37 / 8) (#3)
by sugarman on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 01:12:05 PM EST

Tech shows, trade shows, and product demos like this need to be treated with a little distance from the actual subject. There are other analogies that exist in other fields that may be more visible to the mainstream audience.

They have the same general relationship as haute-coutre runway fashion shows have to what is actually on the racks in Neiman-Marcus. What is the only thing that gets passed down from that million-dollar celebrity show? The buttons on the suit jacket.

They derive as much from the product on display as you Honda Accord does from the F-1 racing team. They are several product life-cycles removed. Yes, some of the same tech is actually there. But it will not be in the form that it was initially presented.

Wearable PC's are a neat thing. They might gain some acceptance, but only after they get some high profile product placement, like having NFL Coaches keeping a HUD of their playbook, and being visible on the sidelines. (Hey, the XFL is coming, this may actually happen, who knows).

But for the average person on the street. It ain't going to happen. Most of us don't use Plantronics headsets for our mobile phones, and even in the office a lot of us still use the traditional pick-ups. Same here. The Palm has imbedded itself in out consciouness, borne out of the Gameboy of a generation before. We're have become accustomed to the handheld. It will take some time before headware usurps that role.


--sugarman--

Re: Tech Coutre (3.80 / 5) (#7)
by baberg on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 01:24:07 PM EST

NFL Coaches keeping a HUD of their playbook

In my mind, that's probably one of the best applications of wearable computers. Not the NFL, just having a hands-free manual accessable anywhere

For example, if somebody were working on a nuclear reactor, I would want them to have some sort of instructions in front of them at all times. Perhaps they could be in a closed-circuit chat room where other professionals would give advice and help monitor what's going on, all through the computers. I see great benifits for certain professions in this technology. I just fear for when (if?) it becomes mainstream.

And you're right; tech and trade shows are not where the future is at. It's only hype. But I can easily imagine a Shadowrun-type (probably lots of other futuristic predictions, too) where you just "jack-in" from your head to a wall, and instantly have the world at your virtual fingertips. The good is great, but the bad is disastrous.

[ Parent ]

Re: Tech Coutre (3.50 / 4) (#21)
by Colin Winters on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 03:28:00 PM EST

Actually, Boeing does this-they have wearable computers for their workers that work on their jets. Instead of sorting through manuals, they just use a HUD over one eye. Colin Winters

[ Parent ]
Re: Tech Coutre (2.66 / 3) (#38)
by tzanger on Tue Sep 26, 2000 at 09:51:53 AM EST

For example, if somebody were working on a nuclear reactor, I would want them to have some sort of instructions in front of them at all times.

I realize this is was an example and I'm being a little obnoxious here, but would you like the Windows help system up every time you tried to do something? How about the instruction manual for your car whenever you get in?

Just because it's a nuclear reactor doesn't mean the people working on it need everything in front of them all the time. I would personally love to have any manual, schematic or flow diagram for anything I touch at the press of a button or mental thought... but having it "in front of me at all times" would severely hinder my ability to work.



[ Parent ]
there will be a solution (3.37 / 8) (#4)
by ketan on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 01:12:59 PM EST

If people stop paying attention to their surroundings and start dying as a result of it (getting hit by cars, falling into manholes, etc.), people will learn to pay attention. In the long run, those who don't pay attention will get selected against, yielding a super-race of men and women able to pay attention to multiple things at once.</tongue-in-cheek>

We're in a state of transition right now. People will figure out ways to make these technologies convenient to use and the social rules for using them, or stop using them. People are getting more and more annoyed by the lack of civility displayed by people when they use cell phones in public places; there's going to be some kind of backlash, or at least a common agreement on the proper behavior. Here's an analogy.... remember walkmans? They were the first device that made it easier to tune out your surroundings. We've adapted, though. People use portable music devices with headphones all the time, and nobody thinks anything of it. If you're talking to someone, you remove your headphones, because that's the polite thing to do. The same thing will happen with these other devices. People will learn.

Re: there will be a solution (3.66 / 6) (#5)
by baberg on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 01:18:58 PM EST

People will learn

I agree whole-heartedly. But I'm mainly concerned at the speed with which people actually do learn. For example, I don't think I've ever seen people use a cellular phone in what I would consider an appropriate manner. That is, when the call comes in, politely excuse themselves, pick it up when you're in private, talk briefly to the other person, and then rejoin the other people. Hell, one of my roommates doesn't even leave the room when he's talking on a cordless phone and everybody else is concentrating on a movie! I grow concerned with the possibility of too much technology too fast, and people can't learn the social skills to properly manage the new technology.

Good analogy with the walkman, by the way. Wearable computers are a bit higher up on the distraction scale (audio and video) but the analogy is still sound (no pun intended)

[ Parent ]

Re: there will be a solution (3.50 / 6) (#16)
by ketan on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 02:43:05 PM EST

Of course, the thing with social solutions is that they have to be enforced. So if your roommate is talking on the phone when you're trying to watch something, you need to tell him he's bothering you because he won't figure it out for himself (just like with headphones, cell phones, etc.). If he continues to be rude, well, you smack him upside the head :-). So perhaps I should amend my people will learn to people will learn, given time and with help.

[ Parent ]
Finding a balance is difficult (4.22 / 9) (#6)
by thppt on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 01:20:24 PM EST

You've touched on a subject that society in general is only just beginning to realize is something that needs to be addressed. Witness the growing number and vehemence of various "hang up and drive" (etc) campaigns. Also witness research (sorry, I don't have specific links; perhaps someone can help me out here?) indicating that constant connectivity and automation has led to less free time for people in general, rather than more free time as people had originally hoped. Especially in our Western society humans have proved themselves to be much more adept at introducing gobs of new technology than they are at figuring out how to make the best use of that technology. Left to their own devices ("BAA-dum-PIsshhh... Thank you, I'll be here all week."), any given individual may never figure out the basic truth you pointed out: you don't have to answer $INCOMING_COMMUNICATION. That's what [e,voice]mail is for. Why do folks who use their answering machine to screen their calls receive criticism for using technology to reduce the minute-to-minute demands on their life?

The folks who read k5 may be, simultaneously, the people most likely to first have problems integrating new communications technologies unobtrusively into their lives and also the people most likely to find a balance between their sanity/safety and their connectivity. Simply because a lot of us have the constant need for new gadgets (and the need to disassemble and analyze them!) we're going to be the people who discover the hard way "continuous traffic reports GOOD, k5 at 75mph on I95 BAD. Obscenely techie headgear i.e. Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash BAD, unobtrusive and stylish eyepiece on front page of Charmed.com GOOD (liked the bare navel, too. Ahem.)." New technology will always require people to find a balance between realizing a tangible improvement to their lifestyle through that technology and allowing their devices to reduce their life to a series of stimulus-response pairs. Proper usability design can go a long way towards determining which of these cases apply to a new tech, but in the end everyone has to find their own balance.

Re: Finding a balance is difficult (3.50 / 6) (#17)
by ketan on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 02:45:44 PM EST

You're disagreeing a bit with a comment I made above, but you're right. We have done a poor job of adapting to technology. I too have seen the reports tying loss of free time to the "gobs of new technology." On the other hand, maybe this just isn't a long enough perspective. After all, most of the examples of this constant connectivity and automation are relatively recent (not last couple years, but last 20 years). Society doesn't change as quickly as technology, so while we may now take for granted [e,voice]mail, society as a whole hasn't adapted to the use of these. We do see a gradual backlash, though, as people feel more and more stressed by being connected. People probably will start prioritizing as they realize more and more what's being lost. Expecting sudden change is foolish, as these are new things that take time to adopt and for us to adapt. But we will.

[ Parent ]
Re: Finding a balance is difficult (2.50 / 2) (#41)
by Doctor Memory on Tue Sep 26, 2000 at 03:35:12 PM EST

unobtrusive and stylish eyepiece on front page of Charmed.com Am I the only one who went to that page and thought "I'll bet she's really attractive. Shame about the cyber-trash she's got on."

[ Parent ]
The end is near! (1.62 / 8) (#10)
by eann on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 01:50:53 PM EST

Am I just a doomsayer, touting all the horrible things that only could happen, but with training and a little common sense, could be avoided?

Yes. Right on, brother (or sister)!

Since when did training and/or common sense have anything to do with reality?

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


Danger (3.66 / 18) (#12)
by PresJPolk on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 02:13:42 PM EST

I'd say the automobile itself is more dangerous than wireless connectivity. Ever since Our Ford began mass production, people have been dying in automobile accidents. Yet, people keep driving.

Society is willing to accept losses in the name of convenience. If someone gets hit by a bus while typing a kuro5hin pos

Re: Danger (3.16 / 6) (#30)
by A. Nut on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 06:06:57 PM EST

If someone gets hit by a bus while typing a kuro5hin pos

Aw sh*t.

c:\>ping PresJPolk

Reply from PresJPolk: Request timed out
Reply from PresJPolk: Request timed out
Reply from PresJPolk: Request timed out
Reply from PresJPolk: Request timed out

Damn.

telnet next-of-kin
You should reverse the fish in my e-mail address
[ Parent ]

Well... (3.50 / 12) (#13)
by Zeram on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 02:28:10 PM EST

To take it one step further, why not just build in the ability for the wearable computer to recive a signal from the walkway sign, car, whatever, alerting the user to the danger. Personally I think one of the first things that wearable computers should be able to do is warn you of dangers in your surroundings.
<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
Re: Well... (3.83 / 6) (#20)
by ramses0 on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 03:07:49 PM EST

I totally agree with this... as a matter of fact, it meshes in nicely with the idea of radar detectors.

Radar detectors are by and large illegal to use in a lot of states in the U.S. Mostly because they try to allow you to speed without being caught, which the police don't really like that much.

Some of the nicer ones have features where you can "listen to road warnings being broadcast" ... making them not-quite-just-radar-detectors.

I've never seen/heard of these 'road warning beacons' being used, but it would be really nice if the US Government would standardize on maybe frequency 91.1 on your FM dial for construction/police/official entities to micro-broadcast official messages. Either voice, or voice with morse-code beeps for your radio, or radar-detector device to interpret and display.

This would be a case where being more connected could only be a good thing.

I don't know exactly how it would work, but maybe I'll head over to http://www.shouldexist.org/ and see if they can come up with any good ideas.

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]

Borg-like (3.12 / 8) (#14)
by iCEBaLM on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 02:38:56 PM EST

I envision a time where you will need to check your email while getting a bite to eat. Email will become extremely important in the comming years, but it will eventually be supplanted by teleconferencing. You'll be able to "call" not only a house, but a person, and instead of having to check your email when getting a bite to eat you'll be able to talk to someone who called the computer embedded in your jacket. It's already doable today with internet connected wearables.

It's both frightening and exciting from my perspective, it seems we're becomming more and more borg-like, but thank god with a subtle yet important difference. We're independant minds connected together, not one collective mind telling us what to do. Although I do see a certain amount of "sheep effect" happening... It'll be interesting.

-- iCEBaLM

You know... The Borg were not real (1.00 / 5) (#37)
by alacrityfitzhugh on Tue Sep 26, 2000 at 08:40:37 AM EST

That was just a fictional movie

[ Parent ]
Re: You know... The Borg were not real (3.50 / 2) (#43)
by iCEBaLM on Wed Sep 27, 2000 at 03:25:34 AM EST

No one said they were real. Is there a law now prohibiting comparison between fiction and non-fiction?

Instead of explaining the concept of the borg to everyone who already knows what it is I decided, for brevities sake, to just say "borg-like".

-- iCEBaLM

[ Parent ]
Wired up? Sure. Connected? Guess again. (4.00 / 11) (#15)
by Bad Mojo on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 02:40:12 PM EST

Sure, people are becoming more well attached to little pipes of information. I won't argue against that fact. The pager, the PDA, the cel phone, the laptop all give increased capacity to communicate and receive information from anyplace, anytime during the normal day. But ... how many of those people are really `connected'? Are the contributing or communicating? Or are they just absorbing information that they can't trust, don't trust, and don't need? Are these devices connecting people or just isolating them more?

I don't know. The future is always so murky, but I can't help but think that for every 500 people with a wireless PDA, only 10 or so actually use it to be connected to the rest of society. Those other 490 have a neat toy so they can get "the news and weather." It's not the bandwidth, it's the quality of the connection and the two end nodes that matter more, IMO.


-Bad Mojo
"The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure pure reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!"
B. Watterson's Calvin - "Calvin & Hobbes"

Re: Wired up? Sure. Connected? Guess again. (3.80 / 5) (#28)
by QuantumAbyss on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 05:20:10 PM EST

I agree. I think that too many people simply plug in to the internet, or whatever, without actually using it to help them communicate. But that is fine - as long as they don't use it to reduce communication in other parts of their lives.

What I mean is, that if someone doesn't like talking on the phone then they'll just use the phone for little things or when they're talking to a computer or whatever. That is fine, but that also means that they need to be sure to increase the amount of communication in their lives with respect to the internet or face-to-face contact. They also shouldn't be afraid of the phone.

A societal problem arises when the person in question not only doesn't like talking to people via the phone - they refuse to. They start getting ALL their data from the phone, but via machines (not to down machines, but unless they're amazing AIs, it just ain't the same). Once again, it is fine if a couple of people are doing this (in fact, in a way, healthy) but not if the majority are. If the majority (or a sizable minority) are acting in this fashion it doesn't take long before needs stop being met and people don't feel very happy. Friends/spouse's stop being met because nobody is getting out, and all that pent up sexual energy does nobody any good, etc - you get the drift.

Technology always creates changes in the the intra-personal communication network. It is only a problem when it creates a break in that network, or routes information around some central area. Then either society needs to change or the technology needs to change. I subscribe to the theory that the technologies creation is heavily influenced by the societal structure/direction - so that means there is really only one solution (at least if you agree with me) if technology keeps on pointing society in a direction that is catostrophic - change the society.

Science is not the pursuit of truth, it is the quest for better approximations to a perception of reality.
- QA
[ Parent ]
Re: Wired up? Sure. Connected? Guess again. (4.50 / 2) (#39)
by El Volio on Tue Sep 26, 2000 at 01:36:56 PM EST

I can't help but think that for every 500 people with a wireless PDA, only 10 or so actually use it to be connected to the rest of society. Those other 490 have a neat toy so they can get "the news and weather."
That's an interesting phenomenon on its own. Think news spreads fast now? That will only increase. Yes, a lot of us get news tickers on our pagers, but as that becomes even more widespread and targeted, that may transform our lives further. Having more information (or better control over receipt of that information) is fine; it's all about priorities. I don't care about getting the latest Olympics news right away, for instance, but seeing breaking news developments in, say, a military coup in Mexico is valuable to me.

I'm all for giving folks more options, as long as we have control. For instance, I think having instant messaging available to me at all times would be interesting; nobody says you have to respond instantly. Again, it's all about priorities. Two-way paging is a perfect example of this. Some pages are informational, some actually do require immediate action (eg family emergencies, server is down) and it's convenient to be able to handle it from wherever I am with a minimum of interruption.

The social issues are the same as with existing technologies: there are idiots out there with no sense of perspective (EVERYTHING must be handled immediately), but I'm willing to bet that they have issues going deeper than phone calls. Such individuals (in my experience) aren't able to properly prioritize the rest of their lives, either.

[ Parent ]

Mobile phones sold = 700Million PDA's = 10Million (2.75 / 8) (#18)
by ewan on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 03:00:15 PM EST

I dont know what the situation is in America, but here in the UK and Europe almost anyone who cares to can already check their email through their mobile phone, either as an SMS message for the basic ones, or complete email readers in the newer phones (for example the WAP capable ones). The fact is though, most of us dont, and i personally dont see that changing anytime soon by any massive degree.

Having said that, when we do start to rely on email as a ubiquitous technology that provides communication worldwide to anyone anywhere, a mobile phone with email/web capabilities will be very useful.


Ewan

Next time your phone rings... (4.00 / 11) (#19)
by bigbird on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 03:00:57 PM EST

...let it keep ringing. Has anyone ever tried to do that? We are so conditioned to answering telephones, that many people cannot just watch it ring. My mom would always say "If it is important, they will phone back", but that is little relief if you are missing a potentially IMPORTANT call. Any new technology which increases connectivity will act as an extension of the existing telephone conditioning.

The existence of 24 hour news stations and CNN Headline news is an (old media) form of the same connectivity as cellular phones and wearable internet links.

Is there a deeper human need for information? If so, any new technology will always be adapted to serve that need, as were previous technologies ranging from sailboats and the pony express to telegraphs, telephones and the internet.

Myself, I am holding out for an implanted link (a big phat pipe straight to the cerebral cortex). There won't even be any visible clues or dangling equipment to warn others that I am posting to k5 while walking down the street.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Rom 1:16
Re: Next time your phone rings... (3.14 / 7) (#23)
by Demona on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 03:29:36 PM EST

Solution: Have a phone that only allows incoming calls from numbers you've pre-approved. Any guesses on how much flogging it'll take for anything like that to see the light of day? I'd gladly pay a slight premium, as it seems actually worth something (as opposed to an unlisted number, which always flummoxed me; I should pay extra to HAVE it listed, not to NOT have it listed!).

[ Parent ]
Re: Next time your phone rings... (3.42 / 7) (#25)
by sugarman on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 03:58:59 PM EST

To the best of my knowledge, this already exists, and has been available for quite some time.

Some people do have a (very) legitimate need for this service. Lottery winners, restraining orders, etc. Other people are just paranoid. (though it isn't paranoia if they really are out to get you)

Call your phone company and ask around.


--sugarman--
[ Parent ]

yeah, but it's a scam... (3.00 / 6) (#35)
by joeyo on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 09:17:18 PM EST

...Cause you can also pay to get a second service which lets you bypass the call-blocking-service!

Which makes me wonder if there is a third service which lets you block the bypassed-call-blocking-service...

(Ahhh! Death by Recursion!)


--
"Give me enough variables to work with, and I can probably do away with the notion of human free will." -- demi
[ Parent ]

Re: Next time your phone rings... (3.71 / 7) (#26)
by Xenophon Fenderson, the Carbon(d)ated on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 04:07:20 PM EST

My cell phone (Nokia 6160) does this using caller ID. I can specify that certain phone numbers be the only ones that ring, e.g. if I'm in a meeting, only callers from the VIP list will actually ring the phone, otherwise the phone just displays a message and stays quiet. Of course, it gets a little tricky what with some phone switches (e.g. even though I'm calling Joe at 555-5621, when he calls me it appears to be 555-5600).



--
Rev. Dr. Xenophon Fenderson, the Carbon(d)ated, KSC, mhm21x16, and the Patron Saint of All Things Plastic fnord
I'm proud of my Northern Tibetian heritage!
[ Parent ]
Re: Next time your phone rings... (2.75 / 4) (#42)
by Joshua on Tue Sep 26, 2000 at 05:24:15 PM EST

You know what, I don't pick up the phone because I'm conditioned.

I pick up the phone because the vast majority of people who call me, call me because they want to talk to me, and more often than not, I want to talk to them too.

I'm a very social person. ;-)

Joshua

[ Parent ]
I run away... (3.63 / 11) (#22)
by Luke Scharf on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 03:29:22 PM EST

I'm a sysadmin for a 40-odd system network that gets used mostly by graduate students at odd times of the daty. I'm proud of my work even though every so often I encounter a properly humbling problem or person. :-)

Anyway, I won't get a cellular phone unless I absolutely have to AND someone else is paying for it. On a normal day half of the people who manage to find me physcially or by conventional phone want me to answer a question or fix something for them. My home phone number is officially known as "the call me at 3:00 in the morning and I'll kill you number".

So, in order to have some semblance of sanity and a life, I refuse to stay "connected" at all times.

Of course, that having been said, a handeld vt100 with some sort of ssh-over-radio connection back to our main server would be kind of cool while I'm at class... :-)



Don't be so damn patronising (2.30 / 10) (#27)
by the nameless avenger on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 04:37:52 PM EST

But the problem that I see is that many people may not learn how to integrate the new technologies into their lives.

Well, they'll certainly thank you for rushing to their defense. You're obviously so much smarter than they are - perhaps you should be made some sort of dictator.

BTW: don't use "Luddite" to mean "person who resists new technology for no good reason". The original Luddites were worried about the mass redundancies that new technology was causing. They campaigned for social justice: i.e. a company which employed skilled artisans, expecting them to learn very particular non-transferable skills over a period of decades should not be allowed to simply make said people redundant without paying towards the cost of those people gaining new skills & employment at the very least.



connectivity gives me (a sort of) freedom (4.00 / 8) (#29)
by Xavier on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 05:46:49 PM EST

One thing that I looked forward to when I was checking out the campus of my current school was the number of network drops around the facilities. I was utterly impressed (and began thinking of the possibilities of such) when I saw ethernet jacks in the open area outside our student union.

One of the possibilities that I came up with was my newfound ability to be connected pretty much anywhere on campus. (although i don't have a laptop, i'm going to get a wired nic for my visor soon).

Is being constantly connected a good thing? Well, that's something I'm not too sure about. It will give me one thing that I don't currently have - freedom to do my work outside of my desk. One might argue that laptops have been providing something like this for quite some time now, but there's a difference - you don't wear your laptop. With a PDA, a small, portable keyboard and some sort of net connection, my work is anywhere that I see an ethernet jack. This allows for me to escape my room and still be productive (or at least have the potential to be such) . It also means that wherever I go, all my distractions will follow me as well if I choose to persuit them.

On the whole, I'd say that given appropriate moderation, constant connectivity can be infinatly rewarding. The one major factor of a constant connection, though, is being able to disconnect without self-inducted fear of repercussions. For me, I have to be able to do things like go out to the middle of nowhere on a camping trip with little technology. Whatever works for the individual is left up to them, just so long as the connection isn't an addiction.
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asking the wrong question, (3.85 / 7) (#31)
by johnmeacham on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 06:11:19 PM EST

if you ask whether you need to check your email while walking to get a bite to eat then the answer is probably no, but if i needed to check my email, there are times when it would be much nicer to be walking to get something to eat, or in a park or anywhere really. if these devices let me get a bit more time outside and out and about then they are helpful, it all depends on how you use them.

(3.00 / 6) (#32)
by khallow on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 07:33:17 PM EST

Where's the technology? All I saw was some flashy eye-candy and pretentious prose. Are those gadgets for real or just mockups? I do appreciate their "business" plan (i.e. equip the socialites for the 21st century). The dumb money is going to flood into this company unless they self-destruct spectacularly.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Re: (3.50 / 4) (#36)
by Xavier on Tue Sep 26, 2000 at 12:01:28 AM EST

As far as I know the Lizzy is quite real (although the case might be a mockup). I've seen the eye piece and other components that are used for that demo at the MIT Media Lab worn by one of these cool people. In fact, one of those cool people happens to be Thad Starner, the guy who is stated to have worked on the Lizzy.

If you're in Boston and interested in this sort of stuff, I'd reccomend looking at the MIT Media Lab schedule and checking out an open house. The technology there is utterly astounding and the people are even more so.
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[ Parent ]

It's the direction we're moving in. (4.00 / 4) (#33)
by skeezix on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 07:41:20 PM EST

People have been using phones, television, and radio for many years. The medium isn't really changing drastically, but the means of getting the medium is. We have cable, satelite, and digital TV. We carry mobile phones which are also now digital. On the desktop broadband is enabling us to view streaming audio and video with very high quality. And the technology is coming to enable us to have wireless broadband. What this will do is totally change the way we communicate and view entertainment and informational media. Sure, maybe we've played around with voice-over-ip, listened to a live baseball game with RealPlayer, or watched the Phantom Menace trailer...but for the most part this has all been at our desktop PC. The time is coming when we'll be able to do all those things on a wireless device. Instead of actually calling my phone number, you might "dial up" the ip address of my wireless device. We then could chat directly over the internet with live, high-quality digital audio. If my device is Jabber-enabled I could send instant messages to any of my friends or co-workers regardless of their favourite IM protocol. What about Radio or Television? Well, there are radio stations that broadcast over the 'net now, in the future this will only increase. You'll be able to watch full-length movies in streaming digital audio on a wireless device. While you're viewing it you could save it to a file and email it to a friend or bind it to an XML Jabber message. I could list myself in an online "white pages" of sorts, that would give the information necessary for any user on the planet to access whatever data of mine I wish to share. While the more adventurous will do a lot of this on their own. Companies will make billions by providing services for the wireless devices. A user's personal documents, music collection, movies, contacts, etc. could be kept on a server. The user could specify levels of security for any file or group of files on the server (who has access to what under what conditions). For a fee, the user could subscribe to video/audio broadcasts from all genre's. Many applications will reside on servers and accessed from the wireless devices (no, I don't work for Sun and I'm not saying .NET is the answer...just think this is a cool model). Commerce will be handled almost entirely electronically. Wanna give a friend 25 bucks to pay him back for the beers? Just give the necessary information to your wireless device and the funds will automatically be transfered. No pulling-out-of-the-wallet necessary or breaking fifties. In the future you will be connected, whether you want to or not....

Connected with the Internet... (3.42 / 7) (#34)
by Girf on Mon Sep 25, 2000 at 08:08:14 PM EST

there has been a growing need for people to "get connected" with the internet, friends, or family.

There is a urge to be connected with the Internet. I beleive it. In fact, it's gone so far, that any computer not connected to the Internet is useless. If it doesn't have a NIC it's good for a boat anchor. Like, what ever happened to the computer that was supposed to be a data cruncher, endlessly calculating number after number. That dream was the dream of the techies in the 60s. Now here we are in the year 2000, and you have gigaflop computers wasting their CPU cycles on running web browsers, 30 gig hard drives filled of MP3s.

In fact the whole Internet thing is not able data, it's not about information, it's about moving useless chucks of data around the globe in the form of today's hit singles, high resolution pictures, and of course that fully HTML formatted email. There is a human urge to need bandwidth, to use bandwidth; and if soicty can do that while jogging, all the more power to them.. right?

The Internet is not about people, it's about ideas.

Get me a chocolate milkshake (4.75 / 4) (#40)
by Perpetual Newbie on Tue Sep 26, 2000 at 01:44:44 PM EST

Surprised that no one's mentioned it yet, but Ray Bradbury had a short story about a near-future world where everybody was electronically connected with multiple pagers, cellphones, etc, and constantly communicating with each other. One person snapped under the pressure of constantly being faxed and msg'd, bought an illegal EMP device, and started shorting out people's pagers and cellphones. The other main character comes to the prison to interview this guy. At the first guy's request, the interviewer turns off his pager+etc, and they talk for hours uninterrupted, just the two of them in a small room. After the interview is over, the second guy goes back to his office where he is bombarded with concerned and angry messages from family and associates who haven't been able to talk to him for six hours. The shift from the simple back and forth talk to trying to hold multiple phone conversations at once is too much, and he goes mad like the first guy...

I might not have been accurate in the retelling (I only saw the TV version =) but it's what the question of the article's title brought to mind. In the story, society had apparently made it an insult to not immediately pick up your phone/whatever when someone called, no matter where you were. Today we do see some people who are accepting phone calls on the road, in the theatre, in the classroom etc, and I've heard of a text-message craze in Asia that is almost as deeply ingrained in the lives of its participats as the connectivity of the people in the Bradbury story. However, this connectivity won't reach the point of distraction as in the story because people have better things to do than make small talk and will cut the unimportant things from their lives to make time for the things that really matter to them. We rarely see people calling each other on the telephone every night(or browsing That Other Site at levels below +2 =) because there is only enough time in the day and there are better ways to expend it. That being said, I see a good market for the guy who crosses an answering machine/voicemail with a cellphone.

How Connected is TOO Connected? | 43 comments (37 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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