Real Life with Shawn Blanc

Shawn Blanc

Continuing today with Mr. Shawn Blanc, the Real Life series delves into the fascinating depths of productivity, the definition of the technological experience, and the nature of forging a career in this immaterial environment.

The Real Life series is an ongoing discussion between friends. A conversation built upon the tenets of introspection, reflection, and the thoughtful consideration of the past, present, and future.


MA: Shawn, as a self-employed writer, new parent, and widely respected personality, how has technology made a true impact upon your life?


SB: Nowadays, for a guy like me, it’s pretty much impossible to find an area of my life that hasn’t been impacted by technology.

When my wife and I started dating nearly 10 years ago — we dated long distance, she in Boulder and I in Kansas City — we kept in touch through modern technologies like cell phones, email, AOL’s Instant Messenger. As new parents, we did so much research on the Internet to find out about birth plans and procedures, common practices in hospitals, vaccination schedules, and more.

Probably the most visible impact that technology has had on me is in regards to my professinal life. As a former print-designer-turned-writer my entire self-employed professional career has stood on the shoulders of modern technology. And if that were not enough, I now make my living by using technology to write about technology. There’s a joke in there somewhere.

I love what I do and I am grateful for the ways different technologies have advanced and enriched my life. Gadgets that are both fun to use and which allow me to do projects and create things that beforehand would have been difficult if not impossible.


MA: Although enriched, do you ever worry that technology is, perhaps, too entwined within your life? That is, do you purposefully try to keep some things outside of the bounds of the digital world?

For instance, as a new father, do you intend to have digital media and technology as a portion of your son’s formative years, or will you withhold such advances?


SB: I’ve never felt that technology itself was too entwined in my life, though I have gone through seasons where I feel the need to slow down or step away. But that could be true for any and all hobbies or distractions. There are people who admit to spending too much time wrenching on the car, or too much time golfing, or whatever it may be.

Technology, gadgets, and the like are not bad in and of themselves, it’s us who need self-control to live balanced and purposeful lives.

When I was growing up my parents only allowed me to watch TV and play video games for a set number of hours per week. I expect I’ll do the same with my kids as they grow up. It’s not to withhold things from them but simply to set the standards for self-control that they won’t yet be capable of setting themselves. If I had had things my way as a kid I would have played Nintendo for 16 hours a day.


MA: Focusing on self-control and balance, I notice that a constant point of interest for you — particularly prevalent during episodes of Shawn Today — is the art of productively scheduling and organizing your time.

Now that you’re self-employed and working from home — particularly with a newborn so close at hand — do you feel that you’ve achieved an appropriate level of balance? I imagine there’s plenty of temptation in both the digital and physical worlds in which you reside. Does this necessitate strict segregation of “real life” from “digital life,” or have you successfully defined a middle ground for yourself?


SB: Segregating “real life” from “digital life” is a matter of time management and, like I mentioned earlier, self-control.

Time management is how I define the time-boundaries in which I am working at my computer. If someone works a 9-5 job then those boundaries are pre-defined for them. They start at 9:00 am and end at 5:00 pm. But as someone who works for himself from home, I have to set those boundaries for myself. I find that if I don’t keep a somewhat consistent work schedule then it’s easy for work to encroach on family or personal time.

Something I think we could all relate to is how easy the iPhone has made it for our digital lives to encroach on our real lives. Also known as checking Twitter in the line at the grocery store, checking email while waiting at a stop light, or posting to Instagram when at the dinner table. If you consider this type of overlap to be bad (or at least rude), the only real solution is self-control. Surely we’re adult enough to be able to leave our phones in our pockets while we’re at the dinner table with friends and family.

Relatedly, I recently began wearing a wristwatch again. So often when I pull out my iPhone to check the time I find myself also unlocking it to check Twitter, email, and the like. If the iPhone is the cigarette of this century, then my wristwatch is a nicotine patch; giving me one less excuse to pull out my iPhone when I don’t need to.


MA: The notion of anchoring your digital interactions through the simple, tangible nature of a wristwatch is a fascinating concept. Moreover, I think it speaks volumes about the dedication an individual must hold toward the fundamental tenet of self-control.

Self-control is no longer a matter of avoiding the occasional sweet food or snack, but in actually severing our ties with this ubiquitous and ever-lowering cloud of information.

In many respects, the concept of a “cloud” strikes me as funny. Given the increasing difficulty to avoid the Internet, the cloud seems to have become more of a fog. Regardless of the self-control we might hold dearly, our vision is perpetually in danger of being encroached by this ever-thickening world of distortion around us.

In this vein, are there any other ways you try to anchor yourself to the “real world?” For instance, do you read physically bound books and magazines, or do you leave your phone at home and go for a walk?

Or, conversely, do you consider that even remotely necessary? Do you feel that you have a firm grasp of your self-control in this environment?


SB: Yes I do read physically bound books, and I use a pen to write in a physical Moleskine journal. But I do this because I enjoy it, not as a some sort of fleeting anchor to try and keep me grounded in the “real world” because I don’t think the issue is about being anchored in the “real world”. Rather, I think it has to do with managing the ubiquitous distractions in our life.

Twitter, email, my Instapaper queue, these are just as much a part of the real world as my physical books are. The difference is that, thanks to our iPhones, these digital goods are always with us and always accessible. They are so ubiquitous in fact that it’s fair to argue our usage of them could border on addiction.

Maybe addicted is too strong of a term. But maybe not; remember when people used BlackBerrys and called them CrackBerrys?

There are more than a few behavioral parallels between obsessive Twitter or email checking and things like problem gambling or other impulse control disorders. From the Wikipedia definition of impulse control disorders:

Impulsivity, the key feature of these disorders, can be thought of as seeking a small, short term gain; in the case of these behaviours, this gain is at the expense of a large and long term loss.

How often do we check Twitter to see if there is something new breaking or if someone has @replied to us? How often to we check our email to see if we’ve got a new message? How often do we check Instagram to see if someone has liked one of our photos? Isn’t this behavior like putting a nickel in the slot machine and pulling the lever to see if we’ll win? Sometimes you win and someone has @replied to you or sent you an email, and sometimes there’s nothing. But if you “win” just frequently enough then it’s all that’s needed for you to keep trying when you’re at that stoplight or in line at the grocery store or at the dinner table with your family.

Granted, impulsively checking our social networks isn’t nearly as destructive to our lives as gambling away out paycheck, but the mental state of addiction is similar. And that makes me concerned for our long-term ability to focus, to think independently, to carry on meaningful conversations, to build relationships, to innovate and create, and more.

One of my all-time favorite Paul Graham essays is “The Top Idea in Your Mind”. In it he writes:

I think most people have one top idea in their mind at any given time. That’s the idea their thoughts will drift toward when they’re allowed to drift freely. And this idea will thus tend to get all the benefit of that type of thinking, while others are starved of it.

And so it’s not about drawing a line between the digital world and the real world, but about not always reaching for our iPhones. Because our minds need chunks of unstimulated time. Boredom is not the enemy.


MA: In many respects, I think that’s a truly poignant lens through which we can understand the relationship between the digital and tangible worlds.

The concept of the digital world — particularly Twitter — as a competitive game in which you “win” with each update is, I think, truly fascinating to consider. Competition is one of the greatest driving forces of the physical world, and it’s important consider how such a fundamental element of the human experience has translated into the digital environment. Particularly given the element of impulsivity.

Through all of this, your perspective seems steeped within the contemporary. Rather than regarding the digital world as a separate entity, you simply — and accurately — view it as simply a characteristic of modern society. The challenges of the digital world are, therefore, simply the challenges of the tangible “meatspace.” In the words of Paul Miller:

What is internet fluff, and what is internet marrow? What’s the line between “virtual” and “real”? If it’s not tangible, is it necessarily inconsequential? And how am I to know? Especially with a blindfold on. Ideas have consequences, and if an idea falls in an internet message board, and I’m not there to retweet it, it does make a sound.

In this vein, as a full-time Internet writer, what’s next for you? Insofar as your career broaches the digital and tangible, you have a relatively boundless future ahead of you. How do you intend to explore this in your second year as a full-time writer?


SB: That’s a great question. I hope I haven’t communicated that I am against checking Twitter. I just feel strongly that these these can erode away our time and our focus if we don’t manage them.

I read once that money makes a horrible master but an excellent slave. If we budget and manage our finances, we have a much higher chance of accomplish our financial goals. But if we just spend whatever we want whenever we want, without regard for the consequences on our financial health then we’ll likely never reach those fiscal goals.

And the same is true for our time. Without a budget (or, put another way, an action plan) for how we’re going to spend our day, then we easily end up squandering our time — spending it on the tyranny of the urgent or on what feels important in the moment. And so why not check email in scheduled blocks of time instead of incessantly throughout the day?

And so, to answer your question about what’s next for me, it has a lot to do with exactly what we’ve been talking about. I am very much wanting to improve my daily productivity by working smarter and with more focus so that I can create more things. I have a few projects in mind that I would like to start, but I so often feel like I don’t know where I’d find the time to do them. That’s why I want to get even better at personal time management.

Or, put another way, I want to explore ways to be creative on a schedule.

I don’t know about you, but I have this paradigm that creative work can only be done on the spur of the moment. That you have to keep an open schedule so when the mood strikes you you’re free to write.

But does creativity really work that way? I’m not convinced.


This article is the third iteration of ONE37’s recurring interview series, Real Life. You can catch up with Shawn on Twitter, or his popular self-titled weblog, ShawnBlanc.net.

Real Life with Stephen Hackett

Stephen and his Family Stephen Hackett and his family.

Continuing today with Mr. Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels, the Real Life series delves into the impact of technology upon parenthood, the nature of a personal weblog, and the truly valuable portions of our lives.

The purpose — as is the conceit of the series — is fairly complex, but nonetheless entertaining to consider: I would like to unravel the hyperbole and find out what is truly of significance to the taste-makers, developers, and thinkers of our industry.

I ask you to consider the Real Life series as an ongoing discussion between friends. A conversation built upon the tenets of introspection, reflection, and thoughtful consideration of the past, present, and future. Herein, my goal is that you might hopefully come to abandon any lingering feelings of negativity, and embrace a youthful feeling of hope and awe for the innovative world in which we live.


MA: Stephen, as a writer, author, and parent, how has technology made a true impact upon your life?


SH: I wouldn’t be a writer (or author, now that I have a book out) without technology, I don’t think. At least, I wouldn’t be the type of writer I am now. I write about technology, journalism and design over at 512 Pixels. I’m fascinated with what happens at the intersection of those topics.

As a parent, technology’s impact is harder to pin down. My wife and I try to limit the time our two kids spend with technology directly. There’s just something healthy about running around in the back yard. We do use things like the iPad and our Mac mini to teach them things like colors and the ABCs, but most of their toys are low-tech.

I think we nerds sometimes have a very limited view of technology. I’ve learned over the past three years that it’s a much bigger field than just consumer electronics companies.

As some readers may know, our son is a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He’s been battling a malignant brain tumor since May 2009. The technological breakthroughs in the fields of neurosurgery and chemotherapy have literally saved his life.


MA: The notion that the technology community often casts its gaze too thinly is a resonant one. Rather than marveling at innovation — particularly in fields external to consumer electronics — I find that people frequently focus on one or two characteristics they do not like. It promotes a feeling of self-entitlement and greed — somehow perpetuating the misconception that they are the only users of a product or service in the world.

Obviously, with your experiences with your son, you’ve had a much broader experience than most. Rather than catering devices to your specific environment, you’ve been ushered into a technologically diverse environment. Technology, for you, is not just a matter of iPhones and Instagrams, but of life-saving, eye-opening significance. In other words, a device is not measured by its failings, but by its ability to — as you wrote — enrich lives.

Do you think this has shaped your perspective? Has your usage of these consumer electronics been metered by a valuable sense of real-world experience? And has the relentless cycle of iterative releases had less of an impact — particularly in light of your vision upon medical advances? Or, perhaps, has it become a constant in a world of changing circumstance?


SH: I think that I’ve come to see all the shit we care and write about most of the time really doesn’t matter all that much at the end of the day.

Yes, my iPhone and MacBook Air allow me make things easier than I could without them. Yes, services like Instagram are great fun. But they really aren’t life-changing things, most of the time.

I do love technology, and I think my appreciation for it is deeper than what most people feel. I’ve often said the computer is just a tool — it’s not what it is that is important, but what you do with it. Playing Angry Birds is a waste of time (but fun), but writing some worth reading or figuring out how to cure cancer are far better uses of those CPU cycles.


MA: Incidentally, I notice that you’ve often written about intensely personal topics on *512 Pixels. Although some might view this as a deviation from the norm, I tend to think it’s one of the best aspects of your writing. You don’t limit yourself to Apple or news, you focus on what is important to your *life.

In that sense, do you find that *512 Pixels has become an extension of your own day-to-day experience? That, despite it being a static website, your writing has become a means to permeate between those boundaries between technology and life? To me, it is precisely this exercise that embodies the significance of technology in real life and, in my eyes, you are one of its biggest advocates — whether intentionally or not.


SH: I’m not really sure why I started writing more personal things on the site. Whatever the reason, the encouragement and feedback I get from those sorts of posts is always positive, and always overwhelming.

When Josiah was diagnosed with cancer back in 2009, my wife and I started a blog to keep those in our lives updated on what was then a very day-to-day situation. Now that Josiah’s stable (but not cancer-free), we don’t update it as much. In hindsight, I am so glad we started it. I already use it brush up on things I’ve forgotten over the last three years.

While 512 has become an outlet for me, the Josiah blog is as well. I expect to write more “personal” posts in the future.


MA: There is a perpetual discussion in our community concerning the differences between a blog — such as *512 Pixels — and a technology site like *The Verge. In my eyes, it is precisely these personal posts that constitute the difference.

I remember back in November — when I first launched *ONE37 — I wrote to you about your personal post, Three. Written as a letter to your son, you discussed the nuances of parenting, the delicate balance of life, and the struggles that you and your family have endured. Obviously such subject matter has little to do with technology but — despite its location on a predominantly technology-related weblog — it felt utterly at home in that context. As a relatively new reader, I suddenly felt a distinct *attachment to your site, your message, and the sentiments therein. I think there’s certainly something poignant about the permeation of this message in such a fashion.

Beyond those intimately related to your family, have you felt some semblance of closeness with your readers when it has come to sharing such personal matters? I know, from my perspective, that your reflections upon parenthood are of great personal interest despite my utter lack of experience in the field. Do you intend to continue this topic in future? Has it been a fruitful experience for you both as a parent and as a writer?


SH: I’ve gotten so many emails, tweets and letters in the mail (really!) from readers, its hard to count. I’ve heard from people who have survived cancer, and those who have lost loved ones to it. It seems that people really, genuinely care about Josiah and our family, without ever having met us. It’s amazing.

I don’t really know how much I will write in the future about Josiah and other personal matters on 512 Pixels. I take that one subject a time, honestly. That said, it has helped me grow as a writer immensely. It’s much harder to write about something you’re close to.


MA: Thinking about the site, specifically, I’ve noticed that you’ve been pursuing and experimenting with a great many ventures for the growth of *512. In the past few months alone you’ve written a book, opened up membership, sold t-shirts, registered an LLC, and so on. With all of these avenues in place, what are you planning for the site in the coming months?

Insofar as *512 is acting as an “extension” of your consciousness, I tend to view *512 — and indeed the weblogs of other prominent writers — as representative of their personalities. As you continue to hone design, court new ideas, and make large steps toward taking the website full-time (perhaps), it seems clear to me that *512 is as much an extension of your consciousness as it is a window onto your life. In this vein, do you have lofty plans for the website and yourself? Do you see the two as being somewhat interdependent?


SH: Over the coming months, I hope to include more reviews of hardware and software. I really enjoy working on them, and people seem to enjoy reading them. I think it’s a win-win.

I’d love to take the site full-time. It’s the one thing that could pull me away from what I do now, which I love. Even if that never happens, I do view the site as an extension of me. I think I write with far more personality than I used to, and I hope to continue to write about things that interest me. If my interests shift, I think the site will shift, too.


MA: With regard to viewing the website as a personal extension, I think that’s an endlessly important distinction to maintain. There’s a recurring misconception in the community that these *personal outlets are somehow at a distinct disconnect — that the content is above others and deserving of *greater reward. Aside from the obviously unhealthy implications of such a perspective, I think it cheapens the experience, and utterly returns us to the juncture that technology is separate from our real lives.

Although you certainly champion the integrity of this relationship, do you see the landscape shifting in coming months? Advertising and RSS sponsorships have long facilitated the sanctity of web designs, but it seems that this arrangement is increasingly being framed as “not enough.” Do you intend to keep *512 operating in its current manner — both in an advertising sense, but also as an implicitly personal extension?


SH: I mean, advertising and RSS sponsorships pay the bills at 512. I don’t see them going away for me. I do offer a membership, and plan on doing more with that in the future. I don’t see any big changes on the horizon, though. I’m just going to keep showing up and keep writing.


MA: Well, that certainly sounds good to me. Is there anything else you’d like to add?


SH: I think I’m good. Thanks so much!


MA: Thank you, sir. Your time and insight is much appreciated.


This article is the second iteration of ONE37’s recurring interview series, Real Life. You can catch up with Stephen on Twitter, or his popular website, 512 Pixels.

Real Life with Federico Viticci

Beach by Federico Viticci Beach by Federico Viticci (Via Instagram)

Beyond reviews and media bluster, I believe that many of us have lost sight of the true importance and impact of technology in our respective day-to-day experiences. Aside from insight into novel design and powerful new silicon, writers, developers, and thinkers across the world have a woefully rare tendency to delve into the significance of a device or piece of software in the lives of their audience.

At the end of the day, compelling features and performance aside, all of us involved in the technology industry — whether directly or otherwise — are in such a position due to the sustained impact of compelling devices and software. Pieces of technology that have been designed to impact our lives, but that are so often left behind amid rampant discussion of resolutions, connectivity, and industrial design.

Starting with Mr. Federico Viticci of MacStories, I will begin to delve into this topic several times per month with a variety of guests. The purpose is fairly complex, but nonetheless entertaining to consider: I would like to unravel the hyperbole and find out what is truly of significance to the taste-makers, developers, and thinkers of our industry.

I ask you to regard the Real Life series as an ongoing discussion between friends. A conversation built upon the tenets of introspection, reflection, and thoughtful consideration of the past, present, and future. Herein, my goal is that you might hopefully come to abandon any lingering feelings of negativity, and embrace a youthful feeling of hope and awe for the innovative world in which we live.


MA: Federico, as a writer, thinker, and generally far-reaching personality, how has technology — whether it’s software, hardware, or otherwise — made a true impact upon your life?


FV: I guess the biggest impact was on the professional side of things — it’s because of Macs and iOS devices, after all, that I have been running MacStories for the past three years. But really, I think in my case adoption of these new technologies and devices mixes up the professional aspect with real-life events and accomplishments quite a bit.

The site allows me to know people I would have never reached if it weren’t for the iPhone and iPad and the ecosystem of apps and developers behind them. The iPhone — the same device I use for work purposes — also happens to be the best camera I have, enabling me to take pictures of important moments of my life worth remembering. The iPad lets me keep a journal with Day One, which is synced with the cloud to other devices. John Gruber’s Markdown, a plain text formatting syntax, has made me a better, more prolific writer because it gets rid of complex HTML formatting and rules. I could go on for hours.

The big picture is that software, more than hardware, lets me do things better, or in a new way entirely. But that software wouldn’t have been possible without new hardware, so it all comes full circle. And like I said, I love the way getting to write about these technologies has opened the door to knowing more people in real life.


MA: The evolution of software has certainly facilitated an interconnected and far-reaching environment for completing work and whatnot, but I think it has also — as you say — increased the opportunity for getting to know people. Having said that, I think it’s far too easy for us to get caught up in the former of the two — productivity and work taking precedence over the real world impact of such advances.

For you, despite being always connected via one device or another, do you feel somewhat liberated and free from your digital world? Do you feel that the technology and software can be removed from your view enough that it can complement and enhance your experiences? Or, do you feel that technology is set to live in the foreground and define the entirety of our experiences rather than simply adding to them? Google seems to be moving in precisely that direction with its Project Glass initiative.


FV: I think that technology changed us, and there’s no going back. I think this is especially true for people of “my generation” (I was born in 1988), and it’s a trend that will only increase going forward.

Let me give you an example — well, actually two. The other day I went with my girlfriend at the beach. Just the two of us, just to sit down in the same place we’ll share with lots more people during the summer, only without nobody else — just to relax and think about stuff. Well, as we were walking down by the shoreline, we both spontaneously fired up Instagram and took a picture. We didn’t stare at our phones for minutes, yet we reached out to them as a natural extension of our minds in that specific moment — because we knew a simple, natural way of creating memories was possible through technology.

Two weeks ago I was also at the bar with my friends. Now, my friends aren’t exactly the kind of users you’d call “nerds” or even slightly “tech savvy”, yet they own iPhones and they are interested in trying out apps. They are the new digital consumers. So we were there on a Friday night, drinking our usual beers, and I noticed at least three of them were naturally switching between apps (WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook, Instagram) as we were talking. They were not excluded from the conversation: they were simply interacting with their devices in the background. They didn’t say “Hey, check out that girl over there” — and I swear this is 100% true — they were browsing Facebook profiles instead (that’s not to say they don’t look at girls — they will never lose that habit for better or worse).

Initially I thought my friends were “weird” for doing that. But as I reflected on it, I figured that all people of my same age are like that now, boys and girls, no difference.

Our brains are wired differently. Technology and mobile devices are changing our social interactions, but I want to stress how my friends aren’t these absurdly awkward people that stand silent in a corner, their eyes shining in the light of their phones’ displays. Not at all. They are normal 24 year-olds that are simply using technology like everyone else does these days: as an extension of our non-digital behaviors and experiences.

So back to your question. Personally, I think we should embrace the fact that technology and “real life” are so deeply intertwined now. It’s too late to start pulling the single strings of this complex fabric now. I believe we can be free from the burden of technology only if we realize we don’t “have to” be free from it: we should let technology and real life be independent and help each other at the same time. That’s what I call progress.


MA: Honestly, the sentiments you have just expressed are remarkably representative of the reasoning for this new series. The articulation that we should “embrace” the interlacing of technology and life is precisely the idea that brought me to reach out to you for this discussion.

More than complexity, I believe technology is now characterized by an increasing sense of accessibility. Rather than focusing upon the hurdles required for full engagement with a device or ecosystem, more and more people are beginning to think of what a device can do for them. Not what it requires of them.

I think the purchase of Instagram is a far-reaching endorsement of this environment. Mobile applications — once considered frivolous and simplistic — have become legitimate bastions of business.

In this environment, what do you expect is next for us? As we increasingly “embrace” this enabling technology, do you think the nature of technology in our lives is set to shift even further — even, perhaps, too much? And, finally, if Instagram is representative of a “first wave,” what comes next?


FV: Having more time to do the things we really care about comes next. Technology can make us “smarter”, but ultimately we seek better tools to be more productive, save time, and make a profit. I can argue that our desire of money is typically driven by a constant pursuit of happiness, which often equals with having more time to focus on the things we want to do, not the ones we have to do. Technology will change this.

Mobile apps may be simplistic, but they really aren’t. You have to look at the grand scheme of things to understand the connections that lead to consequences that have a profound impact on people. See, Instagram may be dismissed as just another photo app that was purchased by a large corporation for an absurd amount of money. People who only see this fail to understand the whole point of this new economy: this is not going to change. Software is the new economy, and devices are the means we use to transmit the currency. Think about the factors involved in the Instagram purchase alone: a small company with employees who receive a salary that sustains families that have other jobs in other ares. Big company comes in, handles a billion dollars to small company, which makes a few people rich in the process including those employees and their families that will likely be happy and choose another role in today’s economy. Oh and by the way, small company was successful because it built an app for a device made by another company that employes thousands….

Do you see where I’m getting at? It’s a complex scenario. I was just having a conversation with a friend the other day — he’s studying typography in college — and we discussed how sometimes people don’t think about the processes and the people that are behind everyday objects. Like, do you have any idea how many people it took to design your fridge? To build the components and assemble it? To sketch it? And who approved that design anyway? There are too many connections, they’re important to keep in mind, and they must not be taken for granted. The new software economy has possibly more of these connections.

So as I was saying, mobile apps aren’t really just mobile apps. They are setting new standards for behaviors and interactions that will be perfectly normal in the future. Because, ultimately, people seek happiness by wishing for more time to do the things they love. The app makers of today fill a double role, as they are pursuing happiness for themselves, and building the future in our present at the same time.

There are several aspects of our daily lives that could be improved. Stuff that won’t even remotely make sense to our grandchildren. The apps and cloud services of today are the seeds of much bigger things to come.

In the future, for example, people won’t “find out” they have cancer. In the same way you can monitor a server’s downtime and crashes, people will be able to monitor their bodies’ condition through nanotechnologies connected with mobile apps and a personal cloud. Local institutions will have instant access to our “status” and they will be able to provide assistance and guidance as needed without bureaxucracy. We will be able to tell diseases by initial alerts, not symptoms. Fifty years from now, the whole concept of “finding out” you’re sick won’t make any sense. Consumer software will turn the entire healthcare industry upside down.

The way we eat will change. Seriously, we’re in 2012 and people still don’t follow healthy diets. While food itself won’t dramatically change in the next decades — people from the future reading this: I hope you are enjoying your pancakes right now — the way we track our eating habits and adjust them to our needs will be completely new. And it will play well with the stuff about monitoring our bodies mentioned above: imagine being able to tell a snack’s calories only by taking a photo of it, or scanning a chip embedded in its packaging, then considering if it can be eaten based on data from our bodies. While there will still be people not caring about these issues, I believe quality of life will generally be objectively better because of the improvements applied to the way we eat. I wonder if Evernote Food will still be around.

There are hundreds of areas waiting for disruption, and mobile devices will be there to assist in the revolution as they are a natural extension of our ideas and actions. There won’t be car crashes at intersections because cars will be aware of another vehicle’s presence; we won’t show “fake IDs” to buy alcohol, as embedded chips with our data and credit card information will take care of allowing us to buy goods and pay for them. Televisions won’t be huge appliances we have to “put” in a room: rather, at any time, we’ll be able to pull stream of images from the cloud and have them projected and voice-controlled anywhere in our homes. The election system will radically change, allowing people to truly vote democratically from the comfort of their couch with a smartphone, and have the results update in a real-time on a public page everyone will be given permission to access with their “personal ID account”.

The rules of privacy will be rewritten. Because we are increasingly becoming citizens of a more connected world that actually feels like a very large city, everyone will know more about each other. We will come to accept the fact that a little bit of something about ourselves will always we public. Yet sharing of more personal data and content will be closely regulated by new technologies for secure and encrypted communications. With the first example I gave, think about the possibility of a service capable of understanding only your girlfriend is really reading that private message. Technology will know more about us.

But we’ll know more about technology, too. First off, the new generations will be hooked up differently than we are, and they’ll instantly be familiar with new concepts of privacy and sharing. This is already happening. Second, by accepting technology as part of our daily lives, we’ll be more relaxed about devices “getting in the way”, say, at private gatherings or family dinners. They will simply be “smart objects”, always available, always doing things for us in the background.

And like I said above, all these innovations will have one common denominator: our happiness. Improving the quality of our lifestyles, institutions, commutes, and social interactions will only be consequences of our basic desire for more time to dedicate to ourselves and the ones we love.

Technology will allow us to have more time to spend with our kids, and take super high-def videos of them, instantly going up to the cloud and into their grandparents’ living room through holograms. We’ll have more time to be creative, follow our hobbies and passions, and work more in higher quality, better connected work environments. We’ll live longer. A common misconception is that all these automation-based inventions will replace human workforce: au contraire, because technology can’t invent itself, we’ll simply have jobs shifting to other areas. After all, we don’t have the same job positions from 1000 years ago, but as you can see Planet Earth is still here. Indeed, the new economy.

Man, when you think about it, technology is pretty exciting, isn’t it?


MA: Exciting, indeed.

When you take a step back from the granularities of our news cycle, there is a relatively untapped wilderness of potential and discussion. Few choose to examine this — to speculate over our collective technological trajectory. But, from my perspective, it is from this place that true innovation may strike us.

I think you, Federico, have just unabashedly delved into this world — a world of limitless potential and hope. You’ve given yourself permission to dream. That is a wonderful thing to behold.

This has been an eye-opening discussion. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to begin. Is there anything you’d like to add?


FV: I want to thank you, Matt, for letting me share some of my thoughts about the impact of technology on our lives.

I wish journalists and writers were less cynical, and understood that business and motivation are tangent aspects of this incredibly exciting technology age. While the business is important, sometimes it’s secondary. A consequence of brilliant ideas, which needs to be dealt with.

Some entrepreneurs really want to make a dent in the universe. We should be optimistic again.


This article is the first iteration of ONE37’s recurring interview series, Real Life. You can catch up with Federico on Twitter, his personal blog, or his popular website, MacStories.