Thursday, February 14, 2019

The iPhonification of Everything

So you've got an iPhone XS in Space Grey. Congrats, so do 20 million other people. Maybe you have different cases but otherwise the hardware in all these phones are virtually identical. Yet you can tell with a glance that this is your phone. You can personalize apps and other elements of the home screen. It's your calendar and email and music.

What? You've dropped your phone over Niagara falls. Luckily you've backed up your data. So you go back to Apple and buy another Space Grey iPhone XS and restore your data. Physically it's a completely different phone but for all practical purposes it's though you still had the original phone. Your phone is not defined by the device but the data that resides on it.

It's not just phones. I can log into Google on anyone's Chrome browser and it will feel like my machine.

Now we've all heard about a future world where nobody owns cars and we get driven around in self-driving Ubers, Lyfts and Waymos. One argument against this world is that people feel connected to their cars and unwilling to commute in some generic vehicle. But one can also imagine the car knows who you are, knows how you like your music, your lighting, how you adjust your seats even how your car drives. It becomes your car. Maybe even has electronic bumper stickers that change to support your political party.

You can imagine the same for hotel rooms, your office, maybe even your apartment. It won't replicate your dog (or will it?) but as we get define more by our data than our things, do our things matter at all?


  1. While there is no need to hijack this "observation"
    into something metaphilosophical such as
    how close can we emulate the platonic representation of 'an'
    ideal (personalized) object via data, there are certain
    physical objects that are difficult to emulate or clone.
    (Unless, again, we drag the debate into data gathered via sensors
    and today's ability to "clone" via 3-D printing -- with special
    reference to fountain pens.)

    For argument's sake, let's entertain the idea that there are some mathematicians
    and writers (e.g., novelists,etc..) who love to drop down their ideas via fountain pens; the nib of the fountain pen is usually (always) personalized via the writing style of its owner.
    (Can we duplicate this type of personalization via specialized micro/nano sensors on the nib ?
    Would that gathered data
    enable us to 3-D print the nib from scratch ?
    That seems kinda non-trivial as of yet. )

    An analogous argument might apply to keyboard ninjas that love their keyboards, and refrain from sharing or using other people's keyboards. Eiiti Wada-sensei, creator of the famous Happy Hacking Keyboard (HHK) layout, once put it this way:

    "Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But that's incorrect. It's in HHKB's slogan, but when America’s cowboys were in the
    middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the
    middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces."

  2. Nice "scenery background" for a Science-Fiction novel ! :-)

  3. It seems that capitalism will led to socialism, except for the top 0.01%, who really own the companies and properties. I don't think this is what Marx had in mind when he said capitalism will lead to socialism.

  4. See an old novel called The Shockwave Rider that anticipated this