I’m wrong. A lot.
I fully admit it. I’m not an especially deep thinker, and I can’t predict the future for shit. Like everyone else, I was hoping for flying cars by now. Not to mention robots, though I suppose the longer we have to wait on that one, the better.
Hell, when I first heard about text-messaging, I scoffed. Scoffed, I tell you! I even remember whennish and whereabouts I was: walking down the Embarcadero in 2000 with my supervisor at CNET, a fellow who was much more on top of cutting-edge technology than myself. He was telling me about something called text-messaging, which was either just introduced in America or was about to be, but was all the rage overseas. I was five stubborn years away from even considering a cell phone, and text-messaging sounded like the most impractical thing ever. Words on a cell phone screen? And typing them via the number pad? Puh-leeze. As if.
The obvious punchline is that I’m now a text-messaging addict. A junkie. A filthy carpal-thumbed 160-character whore, I am. I got my first cell phone in October 2005 for use during a well-intended if poorly-attended book tour. (If you ever want to read to six rows of empty folding chairs near the Canadian border, drive to Bellingham, Washington. Builds character.) Empirically speaking I would still be alive right now, but emotionally I suspect the trip would have killed me if not for text-messaging. Waking up to messages from my girlfriend Vash made waking up seem worth the effort at all, and furiously thumbtyping back and forth with a friend during a particularly rough patch somewhere between Portland and Seattle was an excellent outlet.
When I started using the World Wide Web in late 1995, I didn’t see how it could be used to make money.
I lack vision, is what I’m saying.
Philip Rosedale, the CEO of Linden Lab, sees things so well he sometimes see things that aren’t there:
Other than chat rooms, much of the Internet is devoid of people. If you’re shopping on Amazon.com, you have no idea if you’re alone or if 20,000 other people are there at the same time. There’s no way to notice if you and another shopper are looking at the same product, and start up a conversation about it.
“If someone in the real world needs a job, they walk up to people and ask for one,” Rosedale says. “You can’t do that on the Web. The Web doesn’t talk to you.”
Wow. This must be my Second Life Cluelessness™ acting up, because I’m just not getting that statement. Is the rockstar CEO of a major technology company (Linden Lab, not Rockstar Games) suggesting that jobhunting in meatspace involves walking up to people and asking? I mean, I have friends who find work by saying “Wanna date?”, but I doubt that’s what he’s talking about. In my spates of unemployment over the past five years, the majority of my search has been done online, as has been the case with most everyone I know.
Granted, I network like mad, and the best jobs have been due to people I know in real life (including a fellow ‘Loper) opening doors for me, but that hardly qualifies as just walking up to people and asking for a job. Hell, even Linden’s jobs page doesn’t say “Swing by the offices and ask.” So, the big innovation here to make the web more like the real world isn’t, a non-existent world which doesn’t sound all that great anyway. (Seriously, that would have to suck: “The job search was tough today, hon. Seven people said ‘No!’ to my face.”) Is that a strawman fallacy, or one of those latin ones? Neither, I think. My brain is hurting, but that’s probably just from grinding oranges into my forehead. If only there was a better way to loosen the juice.
And then there’s IBM’s head of tech strategy, Irving Wladawsky-Berger
IBM’s Wladawsky-Berger suggests that the magic of the original Internet and Web has distracted users from an important question: “We never said: ‘Where are the people?’ ” he says.
Now, Wladawsky-Berger and other powerful Internet players are starting to see Second Life as a better, people-centric way to navigate the Net. It might be a leap like when the Mosaic browser first brought graphics to the Internet. Eventually, Internet users might go to Amazon through Second Life instead of through a browser, walking into the Amazon store and interacting with shoppers and clerks.
Obviously what he’s describing is already technologically possible, even if the usage of “better” and “people-centric” as parallel adjectives is a bit alien to me in this context. For that matter, the notion of Second Life being a means of using Amazon (and presumably other retail sites) rather than a browser probably sounds swell if you’re heavily into Second Life to begin with. If you aren’t, it’s considerably less appealing. There may even be some Second Lifers who would prefer not to mix the two. In Wladawsky-Berger’s statement, it feels like the phrase “have to the option to” is missing from between words “might go.” What if I don’t wanna use Second Life for that, or at all? (Shut up. I could still hold out.)
I can only hope that if his vision of future online commerce comes to pass, if my online shopping has to be done in avatar form or not at all, I’ll have the option of doing it in a virtual store devoid of other customers. Christ, I hate store crowds in real life, so why would I want to deal with them when I’m sitting at my computer, even if they’re just pixelly representations of other home shoppers? I can’t be the only one who finds the thought loathesome, can I?
Nah. It’ll never catch on.
But, you know. I’ve been wrong before.