About 4,000 years ago, the ancient Babylonians celebrated the New Year upon seeing the first new moon after the vernal equinox. Today, festivities in New York’s Times Square are televised around the world. Although my traditions don’t date back nearly as far as either of these, each year at this time I try to create a Legal Bytes piece intended to be more thoughtful and philosophical. So this posting will contain no hypertext links to distract you; it will not have citations to offer more information about a snippet; nor will it dazzle you with factoids or intrigue you with today’s news. It’s just me philosophizing, about where we’ve been and where we’re going. My one chance during the year to simply ramble about where we’ve been and where I think we might be headed – without any credentials, qualifications or expertise to do so.
So, loyal Legal Bytes’ readers, just pull up an easy chair, put away your other distractions for a moment, pour a glass of your favorite beverage, sit back and enjoy . . . and again, thank you.
Much has been written about social media. Whether it’s the Facebook phenomenon, now with 1 billion “friends” in sight, or the Twitter tweets that either rock or knock the world – everyone’s talking about it. I just read an interesting blurb from a powerhouse of a social media strategist I follow on Twitter, describing the social media and corporate world as an example of “orthogonal bliss,” and I thought, that’s interesting, but not quite right. Why, you ask? (You did ask, right?) Hang on.
Much has also been written about privacy and data protection. Online behavioral advertising, geo-targeting and location-based services, tracking, identity theft, the buzz words go on and on. I keep reading how advertisers capable of more accurately determining my preferences represent a massive invasion of my privacy and my rights. Wait a minute. That’s not quite right either. Why, you ask? (You did ask again, right?)
Well, let’s put these in perspective, because all of these inter-relate with cloud computing and mobile and wireless technology and, yes, drive-up windows! When Henry Ford introduced mass-production assembly lines in the early 1900s, prices of automobiles dropped, making personal transportation more affordable. Closed body construction, first available on General Motors’ Cadillac Model Thirty in 1910, as well as the first use of an electric starting motor (invented by Charles Kettering), also in the Cadillac sold in 1912, made the automobile easy for anyone to start and capable of being used in all sorts of weather.
More than just trivia, society as we know it in the industrial age has largely been based on the rapid increase in personal transportation: Drive-up windows, shopping malls, suburbs, gasoline/petrol stations, rumble seats, not to mention paved roads, interstate highways and so much more. Try to imagine not just the vehicles themselves, but also the lifestyles that have changed, the culture and society that has arisen around personalized transportation. The airplane has shrunk the globe, and the automobile has enabled us to go where and when we like on it!
Thirty years ago, computers were largely mainframe monoliths, connected to dumb terminals requiring rocket scientists with punch cards and a working knowledge of Boolean algebra to do anything. Raised floors for cabling, sophisticated air conditioning cooling systems – 1 megabyte of memory in 1978 cost more than $30,000. Why would anyone ever need more than 64K!
Today, personal information systems are transforming our society and our culture as well: Everything from how we work, play, game, learn, research, find things and, yes, interact with each other and the world around us. Rapidly. Our appetite for personalized capabilities has created successful companies that have learned the skills of “mass customization” – yes, there’s an app for that! Devices become smaller and more powerful. I can take my toolkit, my work, my school books, my roadmap, my address book, my email and my phone with me wherever I go. I can keep in touch and shop with one device. “Clouds” and wireless devices proliferate – in the next year or so, estimates indicate there will be more than 5 billion active mobile phone contracts, most Web enabled and most with GPS tracking capability.
Continue reading “Happy New Year Wishes for 2011”