- I was among the first Canadians to own a Kindle. I justified my purchase as “research”. The Kindle was not satisfying for anything but fiction and I predicted it would be obsolete within a few years. Then I got an iPad and everything changed. My slow Kindle was immediately obsolete. I stopped buying paper books altogether and threw away 80% of my book collection. My home office has been greatly simplified. Paper books still have a purpose, but they are now a niche product as far as I am concerned. I have not set foot in a library all year, even though I used to go to our local library with the kids every week. I am now buying an ebook a week, but many of these ebooks cost less than the shipping cost of a conventional book. In fact, more and more ebooks are aggressively priced (3$ or less).
- I started the year working on a powerful and expensive computer grid. Yet, during the year my home iMac with its 4 cores and 2 terabyte disk became my new high performance system. Meanwhile, my iPad became my new laptop. I am typing this blog entry on my iPad. For the first time in my life, I have downsized my computing needs. It appears puzzling until you realize that I have simply increased my dependency on the cloud: much of the computing power I need comes from large server farms.
- While we were never television fans, it recently took us weeks to realize we had lost the remote to change channel. And I am not even bothering to get a new remote: as a family, we have broken free of our dependency on television.
- My reflex when something breaks is now to try to fix it. I have setup an electronics shop in my basement. I am working on my second model sailboat. I am also building a robot from scratch. I learned how to put snow tires on my car, all by myself. I also taught myself how to fish. Much of these new skills came through the web, much of it by YouTube.
- Blogging became more important and efficient in 2010. Mostly thanks to Twitter, it has become much easier to discover great blog posts. In fact, I no longer rely primarily on RSS Readers: the people I follow on Twitter are efficient at recommending content. Instapaper made blog reading much less disruptive: if I find something I want to read during my work day, I just mark it for later and usually read it on my iPad in the evening. But also, my personal blog has become much more rewarding. In fact, I now consider blogging an integral part of my scholarship. Given a choice between blogging and writing research papers, I’d become a blogger.
My take away lesson? We are replacing physical objects and processes by bits and software faster than I would have predicted at the beginning of the year. We are also becoming a civilization of autodidacts. Scholarship is being fundamentally reshaped under our noses without anyone noticing. I think that much of the establishment is greatly underestimating the amplitude and significance of these changes. The proof is how badly prepared the American government was with respect to Wikileaks.
Much of this change is dangerous. I dislike our new dependency on Google and Amazon. I fear that there will be a price to pay. I am concerned regarding our unstable economy. I fear a collapse of our currencies. But I have also great hopes.
What is in store for 2011? Who knows?