10-1On this semi-lazy Saturday, I’ve just read in a newspaper that US citizens spend 270 hours/month on screens. I think this is important enough to reflect upon for two minutes. That’s over 11 days (a day more than in 2013). The rest of the developed world can’t be much different. Hence the league table of personal states of being in a typical month stands as follows:

#1 Awake Watching a Screen = 11 days (and increasing)
#2 Sleeping = 10 days (and decreasing)
#3 Awake Without a Screen = 9 days (and decreasing)

Overall this is:

a. Bad for our ability to empathise with one another.
b. Bad for our ability to get restful sleep.
c. Bad for our brains.

Yet all we discuss are the opportunities.
Why?

It seems like the vast majority of working professionals feel they shouldn’t be heard debating these challenges in public. There’s no opportunity that outweighs any of the three issues mentioned above. Anyway I think a larger part of the resistance to discussion is shoulder-shrugging apathy. Omnipresent screens are a new reality, but it’s our choice whether or not we wish to push them back down to third place.

I embrace the inevitable move from boxes of tricks to wearables and connected things. One should always embrace inevitable change because it’s unwise to take any other stance. My headset enables me to handle a lot of calls without looking at a screen. There’s now a great opportunity to spread our ‘connectedness’ a little more evenly across our senses. I can’t prove it, but I firmly believe visual overload (in the form of screens) decreases our levels of happiness.

Right now there’s a lot of people staring at cars, fridges, boilers, shoes, human body parts (i.e. everything) and asking themselves “What great new viral app can I create that uses all these connectables in a useful, novel way that people will pay for”. Perhaps we should also look at it from a different angle and ask ourselves “What do I use my boxes of tricks for today?”. Mobiles, tablets, laptops, desktops are doing lots of things we don’t need them to do and drawing our eyes constantly to screens.

The mobile phone will go the way of the desktop i.e. the growth curve will slow and eventually descend. Along that road, many great entrepreneurs will succeed by replacing small pieces of functionality currently delivered in these boxes of tricks. Of course many will succeed by doing new things that a box of tricks simply can’t deliver but that’s the place where everyone is thinking right now. Start with replacing the box of tricks (rather than inventing entirely new processes with the new connectables) and I bet you’re coming at it from an angle that few others are. Of course most things in the near future will be connections between boxes of tricks and connectables – often reducing the need to check a screen. A very good thing.

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” Mark Weiser (1991)

One other little thing. The terminology in this space is becoming ridiculous. Ask yourself what people will laugh at in a decade or two. “The Internet of things” or the “The internet of Everything”. Call me a geek but I think they are hilarious already. I use them because right now IoT and IoE are accepted terminology. Recently Estimote trademarked the word ‘Nearables’. Great technology Estimote, but it’s a stupid word to trademark. If anyone remembers it in a decade, they’ll be under the table laughing if it’s brought up in some geeky conversation.

Why can’t we keep it simple? Connectables. They are all ‘Connectables’. Within that ‘Wearables’ is a perfectly acceptable subset. And it’s a subset – it’s not separate. Within ‘Wearables’ the word ‘Hearables’ is a perfectly acceptable subset. Sensory categories make sense. Software companies tend not to understand much about human languages or semantics. Hence I suppose we’ll have to suffer for a time. I for one won’t do it in silence.

We will evolve to use connectables primarily to augment and enhance our daily activities. Let’s try and speed up the part where we reduce screens that eat our time unnecessarily. If you’re the parent of a toddler or young child right now, you will sympathise with that. And that says it all really.

Time to create a new ripple in the matrix.
Time to create a new rhythm in our lives.
Time to wake up and think about reclaiming time itself.

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”
Carl Sandburg