Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Silicon Snake Oil - a look back to look forward

mobileinternetgrowth5 (Photo credit: sam_churchill)
I was speaking with Rick Thompson of Snapshot Social Media the other day and he mentioned the book written by Clifford Stoll called "Silicon Snake Oil" as a interesting view of technology and it's power to change our lives.  Clifford Stoll helped create the internet technology and as such was an early user watching the average person discover and start using the internet.    This book was published in 1995, so was written 1 to 2 years before that (based on the schedule of my author friend and his writing of novels).   

I didn't end up reading this book - I skimmed it after the first few chapters.  Clifford is pretty pessimistic about what he helped build and felt that people were wasting a lot of time because they were doing things that were not of any value in their everyday lives.  He also seemed to feel that the internet would never become useful to the common person.  A very interesting and telling section of the book comes when he says, "Well, I don't believe that phone books, newspapers, magazines or corner video stores will disappear as computer networks spread.  Nor do I think that my telephone will merge with my computer, to become some sort of information appliance."  :-)  According to Wikipedia, when this article resurfaced on BoingBoing in 2010, Stoll left a self-deprecating comment: "Of my many mistakes, flubs, and howlers, few have been as public as my 1995 howler....Now, whenever I think I know what's happening, I temper my thoughts: Might be wrong, Cliff..." 

Just goes to show us we won't get every prediction right, and we will probably understimate the value of emerging technologies... even with all the hype that comes along with new capabilities.  In my mind social media is at this point right now... It is turning marketing on its head, it is changing the way we interact with each other and with companies, and it is changing the way we "find" things.  Mobile makes these shifts even more dramatic as we become more impactful as a single person in a world with billions and billions of people and companies. To Clifford's point though, there are more and more things to waste our time, so the key is making our life, our company and our world efficient when there is more and more to deal with. As we know, the one thing that hasn't changed is that there are only 24 hours in a day.  
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