March 13, 2012

Book Review: "Being Digital" by Nicholas Negroponte

I was reading through my usual social media reading list and found a blog that mentioned "Being Digital" by Nicholas Negroponte. How have I not read this?! I ordered it immediately and read it in just a few short hours. It was written nearly 20 years ago in 1995 by the head of MIT's Media Lab department and his predictions for the revolution of multimedia are spot on.

American innovation for technology (computers at the time) essentially arose from competition with foreign markets... like most of our innovations do (the space race). He points out that America was so focused on HDTV while Japan focused their investments in digital TV (i.e. Apple TV). Consumers were more focused on personalized technology rather than best picture, best sound, etc. "The key to the future of television is to stop thinking about television as television." Well we certainly are finally coming around to that idea with internet TV, but we were slow to the race.

"...what sounds logical today will prove to be nonsense tomorrow." 

He breaks down the history of technology (i.e the telephone and TV) and makes some very accurate guesses about the future (kind of scary). He talked abou the television as a computer since people will want more information and video then basic cable. He talked about how laptops will be small things we can curl up with in bed (and this week Apple announced the new iPad!). He mentioned the idea of paying for newspaper articles published in The New York Times, too bad they didn't listen in 1995.

"... the interface between people and their computers improves to the point where talking to your computer is as easy as talking to another human being."

Does that sound like Siri to anyone else? He even took it a step further to discuss the "smart house" idea saying that the appliances should talk to each other. Your refrigerator should know you're out of milk and then alert your car to remind you on your drive home to get milk. Your kitchen (or any room for that matter) should realize you've entered the room and greet you. You can then say "read me the morning headlines" while it pours you coffee. Then those computers also need to develop a personality for us to feel comfortable speaking to them on such a casual level. "You'll be able to buy a Larry King personality for your newspaper interface. Kids might wish to surf the net with Dr. Seuss." (How fun!)

He discussed how the future of technology depends on the children of today. He talked about the idea of "teaching children thinking" i.e. encouraging them to learn by trial and error. I wonder what he would have to say about all the fame obsessed YouTube/"reality" stars that our generation created vs. great technological minds. Great teaching comes great teachers who can realize different cognitive and behavioral styles he explains. He is in favor of children learning through interactive video games and sees computers as an opportunity to educate children around the rural even in rural Africa.

He ends with a warning about the downside of all this great innovation: loss of jobs, invasion of privacy, and intellectual property abuse. All things we are currently dealing with 17 years after this book was published. I highly recommend for those who are interested about where our technology came from and where it may be potentially leading. He also quoted Bruce Springsteen so he won me over!

What's on your reading list?

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1 comment:

  1. sounds very interesting.

    i am keeping my reading list very light, i have too much reading to do for my work, so i have downloaded some harlequin romance on the nook...LOL


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