It’s Steve Jobs’ World and We Just Live in It

A few days ago, I had to meet my wife at the airport. I was early (unheard of), and the flight was late (what else is new). I bought an International Herald Tribune and had coffee and a pastry while I read the paper. A feeling of bittersweet nostalgia overcame me. The morning papers and coffee used to be one of the good times every day. This was the first time I sat and read a newspaper in well over a year. Thus, the inspiration for this first blog for Amateur Economists.

Life has changed dramatically with the advent of the digital age, or digital lifestyle. I always read two newspapers a day, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. It was a ritual. It is gone, but I am still informed, probably better than ever before. The computer and the Net now provide the “information fix.” At the same time, it is also possible to work, speak with and see friends and colleagues, or learn virtually anything we want, from mathematics to playing the piano, on the Net.

It was probably Steve Jobs that coined the phrase “digital lifestyle” to describe what Apple was trying to do. Everything had to interface with everything else: our computer, our cell phone, our portable music device, our television, and our shopping for entertainment at iTunes. WiFi, broadband, even how we get from place to place has been integrated into the digital age. Our cars and now our cell phones have GPS plus a camera and an Internet connection. How soon will our cell phone tell us in the supermarket that the canned peas are two isles to the right?

I work from home via the Internet. I get my news, information, even do research using the Internet. Can the Internet even be the solution (at least part of it) to the energy problem? I use a car very little because I do not commute. I am beginning to shop locally rather than go to a shopping mall. I actually walk to buy groceries and go to the pharmacy. This is not because I am trying to save gas; it is easier, more efficient, healthier and less stressful. I have never been in my employers’ offices, which are thousands of miles from me. Amateur Economists is literally headquartered on the other side of the world. Many of my friends are also virtual.

This blog spot is about how our lives have changed and what you see coming as a result of the digital lifestyle of the 21st century. What will happen to the huge office buildings of central cities? How will working from home change our lifestyles and affect our children? How will this affect our local communities? What will happen to the mega shopping malls in the future? Is the digital lifestyle actually part of the solution to the energy crisis? This is a place to share your thoughts and insights. The 20th century saw the beginning of the industrial age and the development of the auto, which profoundly changed our lives. The driver of the 21st century is digital. Will the change be as profound? Will it be better or worse than the changes of the last century? What do you think?

3 comments to It’s Steve Jobs’ World and We Just Live in It

  • If you haven’t already, check out The Cybercities Reader. It’s a great exploration of the impact of technology on our urban spaces. Concurrently with reading that I’m also reading The Fate Of Place so the questions you pose in your last paragraph are very much top-of-mind for me as of late.

    Do you miss your croissant and coffee in the a.m.? Then turn off the laptop and go back to a paper subscription before it’s too late! Someday, perhaps we’ll have nostalgia for newspapers the way folks already miss Polaroids.

  • Bikram Barua

    There is a sense of anxiety and ominous uncertainty in what you write , behind which looms that sentimental beast – nostalgia . I live with the same unhappiness of everyday life .
    Maybe , the present economic crisis would lead to a rupture with the way we live ; painful it will be .

  • Mike Chase

    Dear Readers,

    I have no desire to return to the “good old days”. I live near a town where there is a Roman square more than 1700 years old that is still in daily use. The streets are still the same stone laid down almost two millennia ago. It is wonderful to walk about and see where we came from. Nostalgia is sweet in most cases, but I like my digital camera, iPhoto and Photoshop much better than my old Polaroid, and far better than the Leica and the darkroom and enlarger of my youth.

    Bikram, don’t let nostalgia make you unhappy. Life is a one way street. There is no way to change or return to the way things were–even an instant ago. Even for an old man like me there is excitement every day in seeing what wonderful new thing will happen. A museum is a wonderful thing to visit, and learn. Our home, our life, our world are not static displays but elements of the present and portals to the future. Accept and enjoy!

    There is little question in my mind that the current economic will be more serious and more prolonged that the current expectation of most “talking heads” on television. There is also the knowledge that we will survive it and the world will change, probably for the better. It will be a painful process, but you and the world will survive. Digitation of the world will be part of the recovery process just as the auto was part of the salvation of the twentieth century.


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