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Mobility, In Human Time

July 25, 2006 - 2 Comments

We of the Mobile Visions blog love it when a blog sparks a reader to post a comment. First of all, it shows that there is life beyond the typeface, but more importantly it provides a sanity check for our ideas. I noticed that Alan’s Instant Mobility post inspired a reader to write in (see the comment section). The reader claims that the need for continuous mobility is overstated. In fact, the reader makes the statement that he’d rather do without it in favor of conducting business at a much slower pace. I believe the phrase he used was “in human time”.I have been thinking about this concept of human time. I would like a definition. It seems to me that human time is dependant not only on the individual, but also on the environment.Consider the days of Columbus. A trip from London to New York (had it existed) would have taken months. Steamships would cut that time to weeks; early aviation to several days; and modern jet engines to a matter of hours. What had previously been considered a normal amount of time was continually decreased with advances in technology.Of course, each new technology isn’t completely at the expense of the former. Even today people can choose to travel from London to New York by boat. Most don’t. Why would you, right? Air travel is a much more efficient use of time.The same is true for mobility. While some may be adverse to change, the fact is that technology initially disrupts and then it is absorbed. People adapt to change, eventually. So, while our reader may question the need for”instant mobility” as described by Alan, the future is clear. Continuous connectivity that is time and location agnostic will become just as common as a flight from London to New York.Change is opportunity. John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

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  1. Couple thoughts: Re Human time?”” Here’s a fun riff on time: “”How would people react if they found themselves surrounded by people moving forward at a different rate or time (or not moving at all)?”” In a Home Depot no less! “”Instant mobiity,”” seems close to “”Always On.”” It’s my theory that we’re raising a generation of kids who have a higher level of capability re interactions w/peers. It doesn’t seem to bother them to be always connected, either mobilly or otherwise, whereas I must flee sometimes. They seem to almost have an insatiable willingness to be connected…where might this lead?! Feeling a bit like an old fogey…””what’s the world coming to:)”” But I also have faith they’ll adjust and figure it out.”

  2. Not all change can be welcomed and embraced. Flights to London are excellent, unfortunately, they panic some virologists as they defy our very much human time viral defense mechanisms. i’ll continue to fly – but my point is that just because something is faster doesn’t mean you should always welcome it.I’ll define human time to mean – the pace that we have been engineered”” to function (well) in. Having just read the Blind Watchmaker, I was making a case that the brain just may have real, intrinsic processing limits to ever-faster ways of dealing with information, or more specifically to wireless technology, the ever increasing flow of information that wireless could enable. We don’t have computers speed reading to us, at least, most of us don’t, because we can only read at certain rates, regardless of how fast a computer could scroll text.In other words, just as the brain can help you avoid a spear, but certainly not a well aimed bullet, we may be running up against a cognitive (re: institutionalized by genetics) limit to how fast we can handle new information.Wireless on airplanes is probably a good thing. i am not going to argue differently. but the point of the cohen piece was more about staying constantly connected. said worker who is in near constant connectivity may not see constant productivity improvements as he/she gets more plugged in. in fact, i guarantee that along the way to total connectivity total productivity becomes sublinear. And my _conjecture_ is that human time means an asymptotic upper bound.