Shane Richmond: are we being turned into computers?



Today’s first talk came from Shane Richmond, the formerTechnology Editor at the UK’s Daily Telegraph. Now a writer, lecturer and consultant with a key interest in consumer technology, digital media, books and music, Shane released an eBook last month called “Computerised You” which investigates the closing gap between people and machines.

Shane started with an overview of what defines wearable tech: it’s hands free; it’s always on; it’s aware of the environment around it; it’s connected; it’s less distracting; and it works as a platform too.

“We already have powerful pocket computers – the smart phone is many times more powerful than the computer that sent man to the moon in 1969. Sensors and batteries are getting increasingly smaller and helping drive a boom in wearable devices.” He showed how the technology is already happening: by 2017, it is estimated that 64 million wearables will be shipped worldwide (which is where smartphones were in 2007 just before the iPhone came out, suggesting that a similarly revolutionary trend will occur with wearable tech).

Shane defined two kinds of wearables: inside-out and outside-in. He shows how wearable tech can give us some kind of baseline for our lifestyles. Activity monitors are becoming more common, for example, and even becoming part of smart-phones, and these things are helping us combat our destructive western lifestyles.

He outlined the problems and opportunities of wearable tech. Problems include data privacy, data control, compulsion and isolation – not to mention the adjustment of social habits. Opportunities include a better understanding of our lives and environment, but we need more analysis services to help relate the information to us.

The future already includes smart tattoos and implants – tech being worn on or under the skin – everything from patches to detect the criteria that causes Sudden Infant Death syndrome to a guy in the U.S. who has built headphones directly into his ears. He ended with a fairly fascinating yet potentially nightmarish scenario that could happen in the next ten years – where we all become computers.