"I Live in the Future & Here's How it Works" generally offers an excellent analysis of future trends in media (especially social media) and consumer behavior. One point that the book makes is that we can often get a good sense of how technologies will be absorbed into broader society by looking at the most tech-savvy among us ("early adopters"). Bilton generally has a more positive take on the social impacts of the internet than some other authors who worry, for example, about Google and Wikipedia making us stupid. For instance, Bilton argues that video games can enhance capability and cites evidence that Surgeons who regularly play games outperform those who don't.
One of the key points of the book is what Bilton calls "Me Economics" -- which implies that consumers will increasingly seek out products and services that have personal relevance and which provide highly engaging personal experiences. In other words, customization and personalization will win out over broad-based media, and businesses will have to adapt to this in order to be successful. Many of the points here are somewhat similar to those made in Chris Anderson's "The Long Tail."
My only problem is that for a book titled "I Live in the Future" and subtitled "Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted," I expected a much broader treatment of how technology will be likely to impact society and the workplace. While Bilton's insights into media are well developed, I don't think those trends can be completely divorced from other -- possibly much more important -- disruptive impacts as technology continues to progress.
In particular there is no discussion of how advancing technology and our evolving consumer desires will impact employment (which should certainly be of interest given the current economic situation). As more of our consumer demands become digital in nature, it necessarily means fewer jobs for people to fulfill those desires. For example, consider the thousands of people employed by the nearly bankrupt Blockbuster, as opposed to how many people Netflix will employ in the future when nearly all movies are streamed directly to televisions or other devices.
Additionally many new automation technologies will increasingly threaten jobs of nearly all types, including knowledge-based jobs that require college degrees. In fact, this is already happening with IT jobs which are being hit even harder by automation than by offshoring.
In spite of the ambitious title, this is clearly outside the scope of what Bilton intended to cover in his book. Therefore, I am still awarding 5 stars for his well-done focus on media. Nonetheless, I think any reader who is interested in the impact of technology on future society, the economy and business should not ignore the broader trends that are analyzed in "The Lights in the Tunnel".
This book is good. It holds quite a bit of Interesting content: it's about the history of content creation and distribution, it's about changing economics, it's about the impact of many different changes on the brain, it's about multitasking, and it's about the source of all the changes: me. Bilton believes - as a very short summary of the book - that every individual has different tastes, believes and wishes. Therefore, every individual wants experiences and products that are highly tailored towards him- or herself. Because of the rise of modern computer technology this is becoming a reality, but it's nothing new: ever since, technology has improved and made it possible to differentiate.
Bilton writes lively about the above mentioned subjects (and some more) and he definitely knows how to present difficult facts and lines of arguments in a clear and thoughtful manner. His book is interesting and he writes engaging.
However, not all is good in my opinion. Bilton holds quite a pragmatic view with regards to the present and the future. His bigger picture consists of 'faster and better access to information', that's what counts. All else has to be sacrificed on this altar. Because of this view, he stays away of answering questions about the morality of the things that are happening. What happens when we are only exposed to opinions that are similar to our own? Will we unlearn living with sets of ideas that are different than ours? What are the philosophical developments that are being build upon? How does a 'generation me' regard truth? What happens to religion when everyone is focused on him- or herself? He neither goes into how it changes the depth and breadth of relations in the real world, and how it effects the way people learn. These questions deserve answers, and Bilton's subtitle ("Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted") implied that they were to be answered in the book. They are not.
Well, in the last chapter he devotes a few paragraphs to these questions, but only in a very restricted manner ("give our youth a place to do stupid things"). He, however, never answers any of the big questions. The book is good, but it would have been much stronger if questions like the ones I mentioned were addressed as well.
This book was very readable. Once I'd started it I hardly put it down. But after a short time since I finished it I'd be hard pressed to answer the question of Why my faculties are being creatively disrupted. So Nick didn't do a very good job with this question despite it being in the title. A cynical answer would be that such disruption is in the commercial interests of the internet organisations leading the assualt on our minds. Nick Bolton has a vested interest in the internet future he is writing about so how can I trust him to be unbiased? Are Social Networks really creating communities that rival Nations in grabbing our allegiance? Do I really want to give up to the drive to monitor what I am doing online in order that my internet experience can be improved?
I started this book very much resistant to its message. I hung on to my resistance throughout. So, I wasn't a very good disciple, I'm afraid.
If you are ready to surrender, then give yourself over to Nick's message without resistance. You will enjoy it. Otherwise, hold on tight and don't be taken in!
A fascinating read from a man whose clearly ping-ponged across the divide of old and new media at the New York Times and been right in the bowels of the change that's to come.
I was particularly enlightened by his his historical look at how we've always been a future-fearing race, especially regarding the reluctance to accept that people wouldn't die if a train travelled over a certain speed.