Is Tech Innovation Only for the Rich/Affluent Majority

The following quoted piece is my comment that I left on this article that was posted over at Computer World. And while I agree with the premise, its also just as hard to ask the question in light of both sides that have to make the answer together. Your comments are totally appreciated and welcomed:

Speaking as a minority, and as a person who’s walking towards their own attempt to change this perception – my views are my own…

…there are a ton of barriers, and depending on one’s perspective, yes, tech innovation can seem to favor those who are rich or of a primary/majority racial or economically affluent background. However, that’s only part of the issue, the other side has to do with the perception of opportunity, and the ability to interface with people who are and aren’t in your racial/economic communities who have experienced success in bringing innovations to pass.

I have been very blessed. My parents went into all kinds of debt to make sure that my sister and I were exposed to as many types of people and innovations as they could. And while they could set the foundation, they could not create the end product. It has been up to me (and my sister) to make good on the lessons that people from every strata of USAmerican society has given us so that we could see and peruse the benefits of life – even the merits of tech innovation.

What we didn’t have, and what is harder to find in some areas of the racial/economic spectrum now is the teaching that happens after one has been granted some success. There are not a lot of people who are able to go back into the communities they came from (for whatever reason) and teach the wrongly held perceptions out. Speaking again personally, I do this with mentoring and through the magazine/consultatory that I started, but its not at all the norm. It’s more the norm to meet some area of influence and then parlay that into politics, rather than directly back into communities.

So yes, I can agree with this article in that there’s more to be done, and certainly more ownership of innovation and stewardship of innovation that needs to be done. But the problem is very basic to address and lies at the core of who we are as USAmericans – do we value what we create enough to share it with others, or are we more concerned with accomplishing a dream, only to lord those accomplishments over those who didn’t work as hard as we did.

Where we answer that says as much about the state of the next generations of tech leadership, as much as it says about the very fabrics of life in this country.

Additional iPad Reflections, the Beginning of Web as Appliance

I’m getting used to living with a two device solution in respect to having my Nokia N97 smartphone and the newly acquired Apple iPad. I’m finding that there’s a benefit to having the web in a right now mode (my smartphone), and the web in a just read and enjoy mode (the iPad). What I had not expected is that the iPad would cause me to alter some behaviors that while healthy, were really a product of mobile just not growing fast enough.

Today is probably the best of examples. I had a late start to the day and therefore didn’t want to use the iPad early on. I used a few of my mobile devices to do things such as Google Reader reading, email reviewing & responding, and some minor communications. And because I wanted to give my N97’s batteries a fresh go – I moved my SIM card into my N95 and went ahead and was simply mobile.

In the afternoon, one of the guys I disciple and I took time to hang at the coffeeshop and get some work done. I basically read for about 3-3.5hrs and then it was time to go. Thing was, I used the iPad the entire time except for a phone call – unexpected and quite challenging. The iPad was left with about 75% of battery. I had expected to let that be the end of the main browsing, but that changed as I partook in another local bakery for some more browsing.

Another 3+hrs later, I was looking at the iPad with about 48% of the battery left – and absoutely no tiredness in browsing on my end. I had not done anything except browse – no apps, no games, no blogging, only an email of one post and a few commets and tweets here and there. Essentially, the iPad just served as a (noticable and attention causing) reading device. And I loved it.

Then I realized that I was browsing the web a lot like we look at TV. Its an appliance. It goes on. And we get lost in a sea of channels and content. For me, it was 40 pages of Autoblog and several tweets, posts, and websites on various subjects. And the thing was that I just wasn’t tired. 3+ more hours and I wanted to keep going. But, I knew that I had to pull back. I was enjoying the web via the iPad (Flash and a few JS issues notwithstanding), but so much so that I started to just get lost in it.

Hence the iPad as a web/connected appliance. Its something whose utility is so simple, so fluid that you can just assume that its always going to be like that. You see, I expect battery life to be crappy – so I carry a second battery for my mobile for those heavy days (today I needed it because it was a heavy Skype day). I expect that when the devices are dead that I’d also pack it up, go home and do like the devices and recharge. Not worrying about battery life, enjoying the content, and being free to just engage with the online and offline environments around you is not normal. It should be, but its not normal.

As J. Whately put it nicely today, the iPad won’t replace paper, won’t cause a seismic shift in industries, and it won’t even be attainable by 95% of the global population. It will cause you to think hard about what’s considered advanced technology. What’s considered a real step forward. And then it will casue you to make decisions – some of them really hard, some really easy.

“Shouldn’t technology respond to be and be enjoyable? Why is it still so archaic and hard to just live with it?”

At the beginning and end of my days, I ask the question of whether I did good or not in respecting the tools that I have, and making sure to use rightly the moments that I have had with them. I see now – even typing this on my N97 at the end of one day and beginning of another – that no, we’ve accepted utter crap in respect to what’s considered advanced tech for too long.

Tools should just work, like an appliance. There should be inherent quality from the pipe, to my personal space, to the policies that govern everything in between. We aren’t there – and the more that I am poked by Nokia Bots for things automatically, and the longer that I can have those coffeehouse sessions with the iPad, the more that I will wonder why we aren’t seeing that Jetson’s future. We really should be further ahead than we are now. But, the batteries and infrastructure hasn’t been updated to meet these realistic expectations of what’s now considered a normal tool of daily life.