One of the books that I read on the way home last week was Create Your Own Economy by Tyler Cowen. He’s got a quick summary available on the Fast Company site, which includes this quote:
In a typical day, I might write two tweets, peruse 15 blogs (Jason Kottke and Penelope Trunk are two must-reads), and watch James Brown dance on YouTube. If it’s a really fun day, I’ll read more blogs, scour the Web for movie reviews, browse eBay, Google myself, and spend more time on Twitter. None of this costs me a penny, and yet I am producing plenty — namely, my own interest and amusement.
More and more, “production” — that word my fellow economists have worked over for generations — has become interior to the human mind rather than set on a factory floor.
I’m not twittering much, but my day ends up looking a bit like that as well. This also reminded me of a recent post by danah boyd – who talks about being wired at conferences:
For the last few years, I’ve been spoiled. I’ve been surrounded by people who, when asked a question, immediately bring out a digital device and look it up. The conferences that I’ve attended have backchannels as a given. Tweeting, blogging, Wikipedia-ing… these are all just what we do. It’s not all there – it’s still broken. My cohort is still always in search of a power plug and there’s a lag between the time a question is asked and the point at which the iPhone’s slow browser is loaded, the query is entered, and the answer is given. Still, we’re getting there.
She then goes on to discuss a conference where she was criticised by some older academics for doing precisely that, and finishes with “How I long for being connected to be an acceptable part of engagement.”
Before Cowen’s book, I read Halting State by Charles Stross, which is set in 2018, and looks at how the world might be once we are all fully wired, all the time. It’s certainly an interesting question. The three authors all have slightly different takes on the topic as well – which makes we wonder if it is a bit of a Rorschach test, where we end up projecting our own hopes and fears onto whatever scenario we’re considering. Cowen views things pretty optimistically – basically saying that having the ability to generate our own leisure is empowering and will ultimately lead to a more diverse and interesting world. Stross is a bit more pessimistic – in his view the increased levels of connectivity lead to decreased freedoms for normal people, while corporate and police power has substantially increased. You can see the generational differences though when you read boyd, because to her, being wired is just the way things work, and she feels cut-off from the world when she’s not hooked up to data.
I don’t really have any profound point to make here (or even a trivial one), I just thought that the contrast between the three views of the present and future was interesting. And all three people are thought-provoking, terrific writers, who are worth checking out.