When Only Birds Flew: What’s the Next Big Thing

Birds FlyWe are surrounded by gadgetry.  On a daily basis I am charged with keeping several computers running along with several iPods and cordless phones.  If you added all the electronic gadgetry that I had on some of my farm equipment, it only gets more complicated.  This is life in 2011.  The proverbial question I ask is what’s next?

It is a question I wrestle with at length.  I may have written this before but I have a friend who is doing a PhD in computer science.  He says that computer science has hit a wall, smaller and faster just doesn’t do it anymore.  In his mind there has to be some type of great leap forward to get past where they are now.  It makes me wonder what is coming next.

I can wonder all I want but in my small mind I just don’t know.  Increasingly, as I age, I try to listen more intently to the young people around me.  One of my favorite things to do is to visit an Apple store and tell the young minions working there; I bought my first Mac in 1987.  Their eyes glaze over, like they are talking to a relic.

I do not tell them that for some type of cheap self-infatuation.  I simply say that so I can get them talking.  I asked them that same question, what is next? I often ask them what does the iPad mean for computing?  However that usually degenerates into, what’s the next big thing?

There are a myriad of ideas out there among the younger generation.  However, when it comes to the Internet, almost all of them take it for granted.  For instance one young person told me the other day they could just not imagine life without the Internet.  They asked me how I ever existed at a time when there was no Internet, no wireless network and no connectivity.  To them, it was a life unimaginable.

To be honest, it is hard for me to imagine what life used to be like.  I used to dial black telephones one finger at a time.  In fact, if you are over the age of 50, you probably remember how quickly you could dial a rotary telephone.  Needless to say, that was so yesterday, now that I am in 2011 I enjoy my wireless network, I just wish it came at a much cheaper cost.

The cost of those networks especially in Canada is a pet peeve of mine.  Wireless costs in Canada are some of the highest in the world.  These costs are so high that in my mind they kill jobs and kill economic growth.  For instance there is a plethora of agricultural machinery technology coming onto the market right now, which relies on a robust wireless network.  However, costs in Canada are so high that this technology is not being widely adopted.  The problem is our wireless costs are regulated so high it becomes burdensome to end-users.  So many Canadian users are at a disadvantage compared to our non-Canadian cousins.  In election 2011, that’s my issue.  I wish one of the federal parties would have a policy to bring down Canadian wireless rates.

The Conservative party may argue that they had one and it was defeated in the recent budget.  In fact the conservatives have gone out of their way to open up the Canadian wireless market to foreign competition.  Its still early to judge that, but breaking up the big telecommunication oligopolies in this country is very hard.  Any political party would have a difficult time doing it.

We’ll see if that happens.   I had a young person ask me the other day whether I was disappointed that I had been born at the wrong time.  In other words with the Internet, social media and all the connectivity that young people have, I will not live long enough to truly enjoy it.  I was somewhat taken aback by that comment.  I thought the technological advances over the last 50 years have been pretty incredible.  In fact, my grandfather used to say he could not think of a better generation to have been born (he was born in 1899) because he saw the horse and buggies all the way up to airplanes and computers.  He died in 1983.

So maybe it is a generational thing.  One generation’s airplane might be another generation’s wireless network.  I don’t know.   My grandfather lived at a time when the only things that could fly were birds.  I’m living with wireless networks, costly as they may be.  So considering what’s ahead?  I continue to rely on those young ones around me to challenge my sensibilities.