Summary and critique of Nick Bilton’s book, I Live in the Future & Here’s how it works: Why your World, Work and Brain are being Creatively Disrupted

 

With the rise of a more digitized and technocentric world many people fear that our over zealous embracing of these new technologies is driving us towards a digital cliff and leading us towards disaster. As we’ve seen in many of the readings and blog posts in this class many are fearful of the overabundance of technology now available to us and feel sure these new tools are corroding our society and disrupting our work, relationships and concentration. Nick Bilton’s book, I live in the future & here’s how it works: why your world, work, and brain are being creatively disrupted, is a creative response to the many pessimists and critics out there. Bilton’s main thesis can be summed up as: the world is changing and even though this transition may be bumpy there is no need to worry—we’ve been there before and change is good.

 

From the title you might assume the book will be an analysis of what the future, or at least the foreseeable technological future, will look like. However, the book is much more about it’s sub-title “why your world, work and brain are being creatively disrupted”. The review of tech developments Bilton presents are interesting, but if you are what Bilton calls a “net native”, the overview of current trends is probably nothing that is new or astonishing to you. However, if you don’t know a “bit” from a “byte”, this book serves as a fine overview of where we’ve been and where we’re headed in the ongoing evolution of daily communication and information dissemination. Having said this, even if you are a Gen Y—I’ve-grown-up-with-computers-my-whole-life—type, you’ll still probably find yourself nodding along and agreeing with Bilton and enjoying the ride he takes you on.

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Bilton is a New York Times reporter and self confessed “technophile” and his book reflects what he sees as the future of storytelling, bolstering his ideas along the way with many historical and current examples.

 

Bilton starts the book off with a bang—no pun intended—with a look at the California porn industry and how this online industry has revolutionized the “pay to play” model to stay ahead of the curve (2010). From there Bilton explores the ever-changing landscape of social media and how it affects us in ways we may not even realize. Bilton references sites apps like Facebook and Foursquare that have become part of many peoples, including his own, daily routines.

 

From there, Bilton addresses claims that our brains are not meant to handle the fast-paced environment created by new technologies. To bolster this point Bilton looks to the video games industry, what he sees as one of the most successful storytelling genres, and explains that in order to engage and stimulate our brain in healthy development we should continue to seek out new forms of narrative and storytelling (Bilton, 2010).

 

Next Bilton looks at how modern consumers are increasingly looking for experiences that are tailored for them. Bilton also addresses the ever-growing debate about whether the next generation of thinkers will really be able to multitask effectively, and suggests that the answer is not as black and white as we may have been led to believe (Bilton, 2010). Bilton introduces several interesting concepts such as “consumivores”, the “byte/snack/meal” model, “anchoring communities” and “trust markets”.  Consumivores is a term Bilton uses to reference what he sees as a new kind of consumer (Bilton, 2010). Consumivores are consumers who actively and collectively rummage, distribute and regurgitate content into “byte-size, snack-size and full-meal packages (2010, 15).  Bilton’s “byte/snack/meal” model describes us as a society of “anchoring communities” that are constantly distributing and repacking information we come across to our networks of friends in small, medium and long formats (2010). Bilton uses the term anchoring communities to refer to the social networks we use to access and filter information and create some sense of boundary in the abyss that is the Internet (2010). When people post on Facebook, they are distributing information to their anchoring communities and their Facebook friends do the same when they pass along or create content (Bilton, 2010). As we build these anchoring communities we start to add and remove people from our communities, as each individual in the community does not receive the same amount of trust (Bilton, 2010). Instead a different level of trust and authenticity is applied to each connection, and this trust can fluctuate like single stocks in a market (Bilton, 2010). This is where Bilton’s idea of “trust markets” comes from.

 

From there Bilton goes on to assure readers that even with the proliferation of new media technologies that quality, insightful reporting and great storytelling will always exist and prevail (Bilton, 2010). Bilton says that the people we buy content from must create unique and interesting experiences for their audiences, as they now have to compete with all the amateurs and other content creators that have pop up over the years. Bilton, however, sees this as a good thing—a bit of healthy competition will encourage people to strive to give their audiences even better quality experiences and content.

 

Finally, an interesting point that Bilton raises that I had not before considered is the fact that the written word is a man-made invention. While many bemoan the digital advancements they see as disruptive and source of degradation in our society, in favor of more traditional forms of media such as print, I had never before considered that even a “traditional” form of media may have at one point in time stirred moral panic. Just like screens and video games, reading letters and words is also a man-made creation (Bilton, 2010). Bilton explains that most children, even if they have grown up sharing books with their parents and hearing stories everyday, are not able to pick up reading on their own because they need to be taught the process of decoding the symbols and associating sounds with symbols (Bilton, 2010). And, just as our brains adapted to this form of communication media, Bilton assures that “our brains will also adapt in a constructive way to this new online world” (Bilton, 2010, 136). Bilton also goes on to compare the printing press to the Internet and how both mediums stirred up much panic and fear when they first came into being because authorities were concerned about “the power of access to unfettered information” (Bilton, 2010, 53).

 

Critique

 

            Overall, I highly enjoyed Bilton’s book and found it to be an interesting read that anyone, regardless of age and technological expertise, could read. Bilton’s book doesn’t bog the reader down with complex theories and paradigms but rather feels like you’re simply reading a long New York Times article.

 

One of my favorite features of the book is that Bilton has put QR codes at the beginning of each chapter ensuring that, “this is not a book but a unique reading experience” (Bilton, 2010, iv). By scanning the QR code with your Smartphone readers are instantly taken to additional content such as videos, links to articles and research and interactive content (Bilton, 2010). Don’t have a Smartphone? No problem. Bilton has all the links and content available on his webpage, nickbilton.com. With this feature I think Bilton has found a unique way to combine the best of the print and digital experience. This feature also proves an intelligent way to subvert those who may criticize a self-professed technophile, such as Bilton, for choosing to publish the book in print form, instead of say in a blog post. By giving the reader all the advantages of the print medium with the immediacy and interactive benefits of digital narrative, Bilton has created an easy way for readers to delve deeper into topics that interest them while keeping the book at a manageable, easy to read size. 

 

My criticism of the book lies in the fact that Bilton is overly optimistic about the potential and benefits of technological innovations. However, Bilton’s book is a response to all the exaggeratedly pessimistic literature and the skeptics who believe the rise of new media technologies mark the decline and degradation of our society. Bilton offers examples from the past and present to show that throughout history skeptics who have seen technological developments as a bad thing have general end up being proven wrong. Having said this painting a slightly more balanced picture—showing the good with the bad—would have lent Bilton’s book more credibility.

 

Another criticism is that when I finished the book, I felt like the final chapter—the epilogue—would have actually been better suited as the opening chapter to give the book a more impassioned start. While the introductory chapter did serve to layout a road map for the book, I feel that the epilogue and introduction would actually have better served the book if they had appeared in reverse order.

 

            In sum, Bilton seeks to provide a new framework for looking at the world and making sense of our ever-changing mediascape and I would argue, as a whole, he does a good job. Bilton’s book takes our complex, media environment and breaks it down into palatable portions. Part of the fear of these new technologies, is a fear of the unknown. Bilton assures the reader that if they are experiencing these trepidations and concerns that they are not the first and that, ultimately, everything will be ok. Bilton shows us that “the writing [is] on the wall—or the screen, if you will” and “it’s time to reorganize, rethink, and get back to the business of storytelling” otherwise the future will pass you as you sit idly by (2010, 8 & 266).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Bilton, N. (2010). I live in the future & here’s how it works: why your world, work, and brain are being creatively disrupted. New York: Crown Business.

 

 

 

 

Appendix 1: Some of my favorite links and articles found in the QR codes

 

Times Techie Envisions the Future of News

http://www.wired.com/business/2009/03/the-future-of-n/

 

Sensors, Smart Content and the Future of News

http://readwrite.com/2009/03/10/sensors_smart_content_and_the_future_of_news?&_suid=136068410032505778506989590824

 

Porn Business Driving DVD Techonology

http://msl1.mit.edu/furdlog/docs/2005-01-09_reuters_porn_dvd_format.pdf

 

Conscious Computing

http://lindastone.net/

 

Will Amazon’s Kindle rescue newspapers?

http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1895737,00.html

 

Cognitive control in Media Multitaskers

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/08/21/0903620106.abstract

 

Gen M: The Multitasking Generation

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1174696,00.html

 

Your brain on Google

 

Predicting the Future with Social Media

http://www.hpl.hp.com/research/scl/papers/socialmedia/socialmedia.pdf

 

Why I Steal Movies… Even ones I’m in

http://gizmodo.com/5539417/why-i-steal-movies-even-ones-im-in

 

The Swarm

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/09/books/the-swarm.html

 

Nationalism

 

Why Twitter will Endure

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/weekinreview/03carr.html?_r=0

 

Is the Internet really a blessing for Democracy?

http://bostonreview.net/BR26.3/sunstein.php

 

The Twitter Train has left the station

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/03/the-twitter-train-has-left-the-station/

 

Stop the World

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/georgepacker/2010/01/stop-the-world.html

 

Is Google making us stupid?

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/

 

Your Brain on Google

http://arunshanbhag.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/brainongoogle-amerjgp-2009.pdf

 

This is your brain on Tetris

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/2.05/tetris.html

 

 

What I learned in the #UOKM class

social-media-iconThe end of the semester is, inevitably—no matter how many times we tell ourselves that next semester we’ll be more organized—a time of frenzied paper writing, exam studying and assignment completion. It’s also a time to reflect back over what we have learned and, moving forward, how we can apply that knowledge to our next pursuits. The purpose of this blog post is to reflect upon the central concepts of the UOKM course and to summarize the most salient points that can be taken away from the semester. In order to do this I will give a brief summary of what I feel are the most significant concepts from the course, namely: big data, knowledge management and personal knowledge management, the network society and collective intelligence. Finally, I would like to discuss how these concepts can be applied to enrich our lives and our knowledge.

With the rise of a more digitized and technocentric world many seem to fear that our overzealous embracing of these new technologies is corroding our society, disrupting our work, relationships and concentration and driving us towards disaster (Bilton, 2010). If there is one thing that a semester’s worth of education in knowledge management and social media has taught me, it’s that even though the world is changing, and the transition may be bumpy for some, there is no need to worry—we’ve been there before and change is good. There will always be people who are weary about new technological innovations, but if we use these new technologies to our advantage and harness the abundant possibilities they offer us they can provide us with possibilities for rich, online interaction unprecedented in the history of communication.

One of the key concepts from the class was that of “big data”, an idea that is challenging our most deeply rooted assumptions about business. According to IBM, sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter generate approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day because of their prolific use (Cha, 2012). Researchers call these large and complex data sets “big data” and they have become so valuable that the World Economic Forum deemed them a “new class of economic asset, like oil” (Cha, 2012). Gary King, a social science professor at Harvard University believes big data is changing the world and redrawing business boundaries (Cha, 2012). King says big data “enables us to watch changes in society in real time and make decisions in a way we haven’t been able to ever before” (Cha, 2012). Social networking sites we used in the course such as Twitter, Facebook and Scoop.it! all generate “big data” that computers and data analysts can sell in data markets (Elbaz, 2012). By using these social networks to our advantage, we learned to build up networks of experts and collaborative communities to filter the endless flow of information we have access to and create some sense of boundary in the abyss that is the Internet (Bilton, 2010). Some even believe that social networks are the future of knowledge management in the 21st century (Gago, 2012).

In the UOKM class we learned that Ikujiro Nonaka, a Japanese academic, is credited with creating the term and field of study called “knowledge management”. Simply put, “knowledge management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge” (Koenig, 2012). Social networks can be seen as tools of personal knowledge management—a more bottom-up, individual take on traditional knowledge management. Using a site such as Twitter, I can follow the people that will help expand my knowledge, search for subject matter I find interesting, get updates from businesses, news outlets and friends, and tap into the on-going conversations happening around me. And there are many more ways to harness the potential these social networks offer.

Nick Bilton, in his book, I live in the future & here’s how it works: why your world, work, and brain are being creatively disrupted, uses the term anchoring communities to refer to the social networks we use to access and filter information (2010). When people post on Facebook or Twitter, they are distributing information to their anchoring communities and their friends and followers do the same when they pass along or create content (Bilton, 2010). As we build these anchoring communities we start to add and remove people from our communities, as each individual in the community does not receive the same amount of trust (Bilton, 2010). Instead a different level of trust and authenticity is applied to each connection, and this trust can fluctuate like single stocks in a market (Bilton, 2010). This is where Bilton’s idea of “trust markets” comes from. For example, you can use Twitter to connect yourself to the best experts on a certain subject by categorizing the people you follow into lists. You can also use Twitter lists to find interesting people to follow by seeing what people the experts are following. Also, every time you read an interesting book, article or blog post you can tweet about it to your followers. You can also find the author on Twitter and follow them—adding them to your network of experts. Finally, there are online tools like The Tweeted Times which create a real-time personalized newspaper generated by the activity on your Twitter account, to further personalize your Twitter experience.

Another key concept discussed this semester is that of the network society. Manuel Castells, an expert on the network society, says that technologies of mass self-communication have given rise to the network society and given people the tools to come together and create a collective power (Castells, 2007). Castells believes that social networks can also be used as sites of counter-power in a positive and progressive way, as was seen with the Occupy movement or the Arab spring, where social networking sites where used to mobilize protesters (Castells, 2007). The use of these technologies allows for micro broadcasting and the viral spread of information to a mass public (Juris, 2012). Using social networks such as Twitter and Facebook lowers the barriers for access, while using hashtags to trend a topic helps to form a collective identity (Juris, 2012).

A final key concept from the course is that of collective intelligence. With social networks providing ever more opportunities for users to personalize their online experience, customers increasingly want to participate in the creation of products in an active and ongoing way (Tapscott & Williams, 2006). An example of this “prosumer” (producer + consumer) culture is the online video game Second Life. Second Life is no typical “product” and it’s not even a typical video game (Tapscott & Williams, 2006). It’s created almost entirely by its customers who participate in the design, creation and production of the product, while Linden Labs, the creator of the game, is content to just manage the community and make sure the infrastructure is running (Tapscott & Williams, 2006).

In an age of social media and the network society, how have these tools affected the way we live our lives? Throughout the course, through class readings, discussions and presentations, we were exposed to a variety of different case studies that touted the advantages of peer collaboration, both online and offline. Overall, as with any course, one of the most important things to take away is knowledge that will be applicable to our future career. The UOKM class has taught me that the workplace of the future will become an increasingly collaborative one and social media are one of the many tools at our disposal. Social networking sites allow us to tap into a network of experts that can enhance our knowledge. And in our networked society knowledge is the new capital—you cannot be anything without it. Knowledge is always here and it is a prerequisite to most everything we do.

 

Bibliography

 

Bilton, N. (2010). I live in the future & here’s how it works: why your world, work, and brain are being creatively disrupted. New York: Crown Business.

Castells, M. (2007). Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society. International Journal of Communication1, 238-266.

Cha, A. (2012, June 6). ‘Big data’ from social media, elsewhere online take trend-watching to new level – The Washington Post. Washington Post. Retrieved February 6, 2013, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/big-data-from-social-media-elsewhere-online-take-trend-watching-to-new-level/2012/06/06/gJQArWWpJV_print.html

Elbaz, E. (2012, September 30). Data Markets: The Emerging Data Economy. TechCrunch. Retrieved February 6, 2013, from http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/30/data-markets-the-emerging-data-economy/

Gago, B. (2012, September 14). How Private Social Networks Facilitate 21st Century Knowledge Management. Enterprise Social Network Blog – tibbr. Retrieved March 12, 2013, from http://blog.tibbr.com/blog/topics/enterprise-2-0/how-social-networks-facilitate-21st-century-knowledge-management/

Juris, J. (2012). Reflections on #Occupy Everywhere: Social media, public space, and emerging logics of aggregation. American Ethnologist, Volume 39, Issue 2, pages 259–279, May 2012.

Koenig, M. (2012, May 4). What is KM? Knowledge Management Explained. KM World. Retrieved March 12, 2013, from http://www.kmworld.com/Articles/Editorial/What-Is-…/What-is-KM-Knowledge-Management-Explained-82405.aspx

Tapscott, D., & Williams, A. D. (2006). Wikinomics: how mass collaboration changes everything. New York: Portfolio

Appendices:

 

Hyperlinks and Videos

 

Big Data Brokers: They Know Everything About You and Sell it to the Highest Bidder

http://gizmodo.com/5991070/big-data-brokers-they-know-everything-about-you-and-sell-it-to-the-highest-bidder

The Future of learning is the future of work

http://www.jarche.com/2013/01/the-future-of-learning-is-the-future-of-work/

Stigmergic Collaboration: The Evolution of Group Work

http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0605/03-elliott.php

Times Techie Envisions the Future of News

http://www.wired.com/business/2009/03/the-future-of-n/

Most People, Most of the Time (the perfect crowd fallacy)

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/03/most-people-most-of-the-time-the-crowd-fallacy.html?utm_source=feedburner

Sensors, Smart Content and the Future of News

http://readwrite.com/2009/03/10/sensors_smart_content_and_the_future_of_news?&_suid=136068410032505778506989590824

Porn Business Driving DVD Techonology

http://msl1.mit.edu/furdlog/docs/2005-01-09_reuters_porn_dvd_format.pdf

Conscious Computing

http://lindastone.net/

Will Amazon’s Kindle rescue newspapers?

http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1895737,00.html

Cognitive control in Media Multitaskers

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/08/21/0903620106.abstract

Gen M: The Multitasking Generation

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1174696,00.html

Your brain on Google

Predicting the Future with Social Media

http://www.hpl.hp.com/research/scl/papers/socialmedia/socialmedia.pdf

Why I Steal Movies… Even ones I’m in

http://gizmodo.com/5539417/why-i-steal-movies-even-ones-im-in

The Swarm

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/09/books/the-swarm.html

Nationalism

Why Twitter will Endure

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/weekinreview/03carr.html?_r=0

Is the Internet really a blessing for Democracy?

http://bostonreview.net/BR26.3/sunstein.php

The Twitter Train has left the station

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/03/the-twitter-train-has-left-the-station/

Stop the World

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/georgepacker/2010/01/stop-the-world.html

Is Google making us stupid?

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/

Your Brain on Google

http://arunshanbhag.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/brainongoogle-amerjgp-2009.pdf

This is your brain on Tetris

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/2.05/tetris.html

Obvious to you, Amazing to others

TED talk: Life’s a great teacher, are you a great student?

Personal Professional Blogging: What I’ve Learned

http://kmonadollaraday.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/personal-professional-blogging-what-ive-learned/

Evernote and IdeaPaint: Turning simple walls into intelligent writing surfaces

http://blog.evernote.com/blog/2011/02/16/evernote-and-ideapaint-turning-simple-walls-into-intelligent-writing-surfaces/

Blogging Empowerment and the “Adjacent Possible”

http://open.salon.com/blog/scott_rosenberg/2010/10/08/blogging_empowerment_and_the_adjacent_possible

Hierarchical Conversations

http://www.jarche.com/2010/10/hierarchical-conversations/

Personal Knowledge Management Online Paper

http://paper.li/stephendale/1334484656

TED Talk: Don Tapscott on four principles for the open world

http://www.ted.com/talks/don_tapscott_four_principles_for_the_open_world_1.html

Don Tapscott on Radical Openness

http://www.cbc.ca/books/2013/02/don-tapscott-on-radical-openness.html

Books:

Radical Openness: Four Unexpected Principles for Success by: Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams

The Star and the Spider by: Ori Brafman and Rob Beckstrom

The Long Tail by: Chris Anderson

Naked Conversation by: Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

Small is the New Big by: Seth Godin

Made to Stick by: Chip Heath and Dan Heat

Personal Knowledge Management Resources:

 Hootsuite—Great dashboard app to help manage multiple social media platforms

http://www.hootsuite.com

Personalized news source

http://www.trove.com

Free Twitter Followers Analysis

http://simplymeasured.com/freebies/twitter-follower-analytics#utm_source=freebies&utm_medium=cc_tweet&utm_content=twitterfollower&utm_campaign=freebies

The Tweeted Times: My Personal Newspaper

http://tweetedtimes.com/#!/amber_Vsmith

Connect:

https://twitter.com/amber_Vsmith

http://www.scoop.it/t/social-media-information-2

http://www.scoop.it/t/comms-in-the-news

http://www.scoop.it/t/taking-advantage-of-social-media