The Pervasive Effects And Future of Mobile Technology
Smart mobs are interconnected groups of people who are using technological advances in new and important ways, and Howard Rheingold has made it his business to get to the heart of any new technological phenomenon and find out what makes it tick. When he discovered "texting" (the exchanging of short messages via mobile telephones) on a Tokyo street corner in 2000, he had an epiphany that has led him to explore the changes in technology that are occurring right now and their implications for the next 10 years.
In Smart Mobs, Rheingold digs into the profound changes that are taking place in the world and the ways radio chips, wireless Internet applications, text messaging, and other advances in computer technology are moving people in unexpected directions.
'An Eruption of Subcultures'
When discussing texting, Rheingold says that it has not only led to "an eruption of subcultures in Europe and Asia," but the use of text messaging has even been a part of leading to the overthrow of at least one government.
Every technological phenomenon that has cropped up in the last few years is reexamined in the light of the new uses that users have found for them, and along the way Rheingold pours on the language of the übergeeks and defines dozens of new terms that will find their ways into our common culture over the next few years. By the time the reader puts down Smart Mobs, he or she will understand what a peer-to-peer ad-hocracy is as well as how an interpersonal awareness device works.
The applications of peer-to-peer (p2p) networks that Rheingold discusses go far beyond the Napster model that was recently shut down after trouble with the recording industry, and venture into searching for extraterrestrial communications and cures for deadly diseases.
Other advances that are hashed out throughout Smart Mobs are smart rooms, environments that sense inhabitants and respond to them; sentient objects, physical objects with information and communication capabilities; wearable computers that sense, compute and communicate while working as clothing; and even digital cities with vast information capabilities. Each of these advancements rely on the radio, infrared and other invisible signaling technologies that enable chips to transfer information to other people and to devices that are as close as the same room or on the other side of the planet.
Rheingold also explores the next step in the evolution of reputation and the future of online credit verification services that are on their way to becoming "finely nuanced reputation repositories capable of forecasting your taste in music, vouching for the trustworthiness of your computer code, attesting to your ability to evaluate wines, as well as verifying your credit record." This convergence of technology and cooperation is already seen on eBay, where a reputation system facilitates billions of dollars worth of transactions between people who don't know each other; and Amazon, where an online recommendation system tells customers about books and records bought by people whose tastes are similar to their own.
The Downside of Technology
Along with the upside of these types of technology, Rheingold also explores their negative sides. These include intrusions on individual privacy and liberty by the state and its political enemies, as well as the use of smart mob tactics by terrorists and organized criminals.
As online cooperation increases, so does the technological infrastructure that increases surveillance on citizens. Issues like these are pursued along with the profound effects of communication devices on our work, family and societal life, and the quality and meaning of life issues that accompany their pervasiveness.
Rheingold explores the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and dangers of mobile and pervasive technologies while addressing the social challenges posed by them. Along the way, he examines the nature of public spaces and other aspects of physical geography that are changing as a result of the emergence of these social networks in cyberspace.
Why Soundview Likes This Book
Smart Mobs offers a fascinating look at the ways people communicate in the 21st century, and provides an exciting vision of the future that is developing from the technological advancements of today and tomorrow. His numerous timely examples of companies, people and connections that are affected by the mobile technology that is emerging at an incredible rate, and the changes that are born from its advancement, all form a compelling view of a subject with giant ramifications for the world in which we live. His observant insights are a welcome inroad to the forces that are shaping our own future and that of our grandchildren.