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Our Seamless Future

Here’s an artifact of our time: http://www.betterbroadbandblog.com/2010/07/the-wireless-data-crunch/

Upshot: Guy’s iphone used up its battery about fifteen times faster when he was in New York City than when he’s at home in Arizona. Apparently one or several of his phone apps constantly called up some program, location, entity, (or whatever it is that phone apps use the phone for) while he was in the City. Also apparently there’s a lot more things to call up for in New York City than in Tucson.

Is that a surprise? The more consumers in an area, the more things are going to be available for the consumers to consume. Manhattan has a lot of people concentrated in a small area. It’s an island so everyone’s stacked up instead of spread out like in LA or Dubuque. That concentration of consumers must present a lucrative market for those producing the junk that apps go and look for. Only makes sense then that the apps are reaching out more often when they find themselves in the Big Apple. Or doing whatever it is the phone does for us while we’re sleeping, eating, walking around gawking at the tall buildings.

Fact is our gadgets and computers do all kinds of things we’re not aware of  while we’re taxing them to do whatever it is we are aware of. They do it “seamlessly.” That’s a new catch phrase. A selling point because we don’t like to be bothered with doing routine “things.” “Things” work seamlessly for us. We don’t know about these things and they don’t necessarily want us to know about these things. Things we’ve probably signed up for but don’t remember signing up for and now have no idea what effect they are having  on our lives. Or at least on our batteries.

This is going to happen more and more. I’ve seen it just with my personal computer usage. Used to be you had to configure your computer for whatever new software you bought. Nowadays the software does everything for you. You don’t need to set up panels or extensions or find fonts and move them around. You don’t have to manually search each file for viruses. You don’t have to do much of anything except figure out ways to surf without the boss knowing it.

Lots of decisions are being made for you. Somewhere in the background, under the desktop, your computer is making these decisions. Sometimes you can hear the disk groaning at the weight of all the processing that it is being asked to seamlessly do, sometimes by you, but more often by some app doing it on its own because it thinks you really need that update to Tweetdeck and by gum, you’re going to get it, I don’t care how many times you click “later.” Eventually you are going to give in and get that shiny new Tweetdeck. And the Adobe Air that goes with it. And updated version of Acrobat. And the latest virus definitions. And…

It’s bad enough that your computer makes decisions for you, but having a little box in your pocket or bag doing it for you when you’re on vacation and getting away from it all is downright creepy. I don’t like the fact that a phone app reaches out for me. I don’t like the fact that it’s locating me on some other box’s map. I like to stay lost and anonymous. And to think this activity is most prevalent in New York City is downright sad. New York is the last refuge for those romantic individuals who dream of one day getting lost and never found. If you can’t get lost in New York, where is there left to go?

Every age has its pundit who declares Manhattan to be going down the tubes. “It ain’t what it used to be,” they always say. The Algonquins said it. As did the Dutch and the Lower East Siders. I’ll bet even the yuppies shake their heads sadly and weep about the City’s vanishing character. Buck up, I say, our seamless future is here. I suggest you take advantage.  And set your phone to make dinner reservations while you’re at it, this is New York after all. You can’t buy a table after 6 in the p.m.

Sue Lange

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