Here are five indicators, observations or articles that caught the eye of FA futurists today.
Image: Bill Selak, Flickr.
A slew of new “Big Mother” apps and devices are coming online to nudge people into better behavior. These include cameras that watch posture, forks that alert a user if she is eating too quickly, and fitness devices that remind consumers to get out of their chairs/off their couches.
In The Anatomy of Violence, Adrian Raine makes the case that there is strong evidence that biological and neurological traits are the foundation for criminal behavior. According to Raine, even a simple indicator like a low resting heart rate has a higher correlation to criminality than smoking has for lung cancer.
Michael Lind argues that, despite recent events, decreasing political violence of all kinds is a long-term global trend.
Airspace and drones constitute the “next great platform for innovation,” with outcomes and benefits as revolutionary as those of the Internet itself, argues Eli Dourado in this thoughtful piece for Wired.
My 2.5 year-old daughter has developed an interesting new behavior: The beeping of the coffee pot, the chirp of the microwave, the bloop-bloop of the TiVo causes her to ask, “What does that noise mean?” Rather than focus on the source of the sound (“What was that noise?”) she is trying to understand and parse the information carried by the sound: That three loud, long beeps means the coffee is ready, that two short, and one long beep means the microwave is done, the whoop-whoop-whoop means someone just bumped into an alarmed car.
Increasingly, wordless sounds are carrying information we can interpret. James Poniewozik, TV critic for Time Magazine, recently Tweeted: “Occupational hazard: need to change all my iPhone alert tones to sounds that are never used in TV episodes.” In a home in which various members are all part of the same technology ecosystem, the new message received tone often has two people scrambling for their phones. And as a user can set different sounds and tones to represent specific functions or people, the ambient sound information can start to get dense and complicated.
Adding to this complication is new start up called Chirp.io. Chirp is an app for the iPhone that encodes data—photos, contact lists, documents, web pages—as a two-second, multi-note tone that can be shared. Chirp works as a broadcast, rather than point-to-point, so anyone in listening distance would be able to receive whatever it is being shared. The broadcast aspect is touted as one of Chirp’s key features as a way to cut out the hassle of having to assign a specific address: If a friend (or anyone) nearby is running Chirp, they will get your message. Soon the air may be filled with the sound of a million chirping phones, making my daughters question of “What does that noise mean?” a lot harder to answer.
Like many other modern knowledge workers today, I work from home. One of the advantages is that I get to watch reruns of Scrubs while I eat my lunch. The other day (June 9, to be precise, for reasons I will shortly make clear), a song I like was playing in the background on Scrubs, so I pulled out my iPhone and fired up the Shazam app. For those not familiar with Shazam, it records a snippet of any song played in its vicinity, then analyzes it and tells you the name and artist. It is handy for just the situation I was in: What is that song and who sings it? In addition to the song title and artist, Shazam shows a picture of the album cover art, if available. And this is what caught my eye—I realized I had seen this cover art before. So I scrolled back through my previous Shazam results and found that I had recorded the same snippet on May 11, 2009. Which tells me two things: 1. I seem to really like that song, and 2. I now know the exact date I previously watched this episode of Scrubs.
The second piece of information may seem trivial, but it is just these kinds of small pieces of info that mobile apps and other programs are picking up daily as we go about our business. As a savvy tech user, I am aware of the various privacy implications of my choices, and while to some it may seem as though I blithely, and too frequently, let third parties into my life, I am fully aware of what I am doing. At least I thought I was, until this incident. It got me thinking about what Shazam could do with this information. What it knows is that I tagged one song on two different occasions. It would not be difficult to comb extant databases and find out how I would have heard that song on those days. And then what? Well, then Shazam would know I like Scrubs, and music featured on Scrubs. If the people behind Shazam ever wanted to expand their business model, they could push recommendations to users about other artists similar to the ones tagged, recommendations about other television shows, or even a reminder that the rerun of Scrubs with the song you like is coming up.
One thing this experience has not seemed to do is encourage me to buy the song. Over a year after tagging it the first time, and weeks since the second, I have still not bought it. Wait—I just did.