More Isolation Through Specialization

As humans, we have a kind of duality that runs through us. We crave the presence of friends and family (well, some of the time at least) but we also want our independence. As the years have gone by (as they always do) it has become more obvious to me that the trend is towards more isolation.

The unusual thing is that it is so much easier to reach people than it used to be. We no longer have to rely on mail or phone to contact people. We can use email or instant messenger instead with a faster delivery and very low cost. It is so much easier and cheaper to contact people than twenty years ago.

So, we have the desire to isolate ourselves but we also have the ability to contact people at our convenient times with relatively low cost. Perhaps this could be classified as convenient relationships. We have the luxury of turning on and off our connection to family and friends. It becomes less about tradition and more about fulfilling our Maslow needs on demand.

There’s another interesting angle to this. People associate mobile phones as having mobile friends. Given a situation that is undesirable or unfriendly, why not call someone that cares? I’ve seen it many times where people (young and old) will call someone just to have company as they wait in line or walk through a mall. I’ve seen teenagers talking to friends on buses for ages. I’ve often wondered if this was really a good use of resources (it’s somebody’s money) but I think this just shows that I’m getting older.

People need people. What is happening is a trend towards being isolated and yet being able to keep in contact with any desirable person. As time advances, this seems to expand further away from the isolated person. For example, Australia is fairly isolated from the rest of the world. Even though I live in a semi-remote area outside of Brisbane, I still keep in contact with my family in America. This is mostly through the phone and email. Since 1997, this has become so much easier and cheaper. I can remember it costing around 80 cents a minute to call America. Last I heard, it is about 5 cents a minute. Email was cheap the whole time but what really has changed is the ability to have a connection that is so much faster. It was virtually impossible to share pictures in the beginning but now it is relatively fast.

What does this change? I sense a strong trend to cross fertilization of information and ideas. People have a much easier time keeping in touch with people from years ago. Without the web, it would be difficult to keep track of the people I knew 15 years ago, especially since I’m in Australia. A web service called LinkedIn has changed all this for me. Instead of putting it in an organizer or local program, I can put my contacts on the web and actually be able to find other people through the people I know. Probably the most clever part is that the individuals update their own entries when they change jobs or email addresses. I recommend it to those of you that want to keep professional contacts going.

I originally was going to make some judgments about isolation and the spread of information but now I realize I cannot say if it is good or bad. Perhaps it would make more sense to provide my observations instead.

We are headed to a much more specialized environment. Our choices will be more catered to as the technology continues to improve. This specialization will allow for a more personal polarization for and against the alignment with others. In other words, the choices that we make will make us think that we are more important than others. From an outside point of view, this sounds ridiculous but in actuality it is really true. Any person or group that thinks that their choices are more “right” than another person or groups is likely to make the blunder of associating against them. It takes time and maturity to realize that our choices do not necessarily define us.

The one thing I’ve realized lately is that our choices will help to further isolate us. Instead of sharing experiences, we will try that much harder to have personal experiences. The most obvious example of this is the booming iPod market and the volume of content being uploaded to Internet every day. It is possible to spend time finding artists that specifically match your tastes that are not available anywhere but the Internet. When we continue to choose that which we think matches how we think, the more likely it will not match anyone else. Is this bad? Probably not. The most likely losers are the big media outlets that focus on more volume with less choice. I imagine that in the near future it will be possible to customize songs exactly to the tastes of what you like. The benefit is too fold. First, you like the song more and can more likely identify with it. Secondly, it is unlikely that the song will be heavily copied due to its taste fingerprint being put on the song. I suspect that the pirating problem could be largely avoided by personalizing copies to the taste of the user instead of selling the same digital copy for everyone.

This would apply for software as well. It will be important to write software than can better adapt to the tastes and skills of the user. I read about this in part in a book called “Programming as if People Mattered” by Nathaniel S. Borenstein. Conceptually, a program should have different interfaces based on different experience levels. I believe this should also be true related to personal tastes. I know that many programs have tried to allow for user customization, but I think that most efforts in this field are token. It makes for a good demo but not something that really adjusts real-time based on user actions. This degree of specialization would give the user added value and also remove the likelihood of high volume pirating.

The ridiculous aspect of the media and software industries is that it is entirely possible to create custom content. The myth of a factory that must produce the same product ala Henry Ford’s assembly line is something left over from the Industrial Era. In the Digital era, anything is possible.

In the context of Citrix, I think it would be valuable to better identify customer environments and allow the software to self manage its ability to best serve that business. This would include not only benefiting the servers and the administrators but the users as well. Specifically, it would be wise to allow tighter integration with client devices to the point that operating systems are no longer a factor with how an application looks. This has been investigated before but found to be too difficult. Perhaps in the future it will become possible to make things more transparent and easy for all parties involved. It would be best to find ways to melt the CPS framework into an existing model instead of wedging them together like things are typically done. Also, it would be important to give users more ability to control the look and feel of the sessions. Personalization leads to identification and a more likely chance of adoption.



Live near Brisbane, Australia. Software developer currently focused on iOS and Android. Avid Google Local Guide

Posted in Observations, Trends
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