Nick Bilton, the lead writer and technology reporter for the New York Times' Bits blog, got his first computer when he was 4 years old and his first video game shortly thereafter. Growing up surrounded by screens, he says he "turned out OK."
Bilton is no Internet utopian--he readily admits he has concerns about the future of privacy online, for example--but, as he explains in his new book I Live in the Future and Here's How It Works, he also believes that our fear of new gadgets and gizmos could be harmful.
"By being afraid of these technologies, we're reducing part of what I consider a digital literacy, especially for the next generation of kids that are growing up with these technologies," Bilton explained during an interview with The Huffington Post. He was inspired to write his book in part because he hopes to convince people who worry about the effects of technology that "these things are imperative for the future."
Bilton shared his thoughts Steve Jobs, Facebook, and life in the future with The Huffington Post. Read on for more.
On what he likes best about living in the future:
Nick Bilton: Time machines. [Laughs] Just kidding. I'm essentially an alpha user. I adopt every single technology that comes out, cull what I think is important, and throw the rest to the side. I love that process of figuring out if something is going to become a mainstream thing or if it's just a flash flood on the Internet.
On the downsides of living in the future:
I don't necessarily think there are any. I had my first computer when I was four years old, I had my first video game system around the same age, and I've essentially grown up online. I've grown up the same way a lot of kids are growing up today and I think that--and what I argue in my book is--I turned out OK. I still read books, I even wrote one, and these things aren't necessarily rotting our brains.
On "hiccups" he's experienced as an early adopter:
It's more of the way that things have been spread. When I first started using Facebook, for example, I was very open with what I shared. I put all these photos on there, I had a really fun time, and I made silly comments. And then privacy settings on the site became so murky. I didn't realize how much of my stuff was being shared. It made me take a step back online and say, "Hey, maybe I should have certain networks where I'm more vocal and public, and then there's certain experiences where I can be more private with my friends and really take things to a different level socially."
On how the way he consumes content has changed:
One of the things that's been amazing is to see how social the way I consume content has become. I no longer purchase print products and analog DVDs. I rely on my social network to really curate the things that are interesting, and I do the same things for them. I think that leads to this concept of hyper-personalization, where the things that you care about are also the things that your friends and your family care about, and you can share and discuss those things in an interesting and unique way.
On how technology is changing content:
Marshall McLuhan famously said, "The medium is the message." The problem is that everything is a medium now. There's no differentiation between a TV station, a newspaper, a blog or a magazine. It's all created on the exact same screen on the exact same device. I'll watch video from the New York Times and I'll read article from CNN, whereas five, ten years ago it was the complete opposite. As consumers we're no longer differentiating between brands and identities. It's all about the content. It's about the social aspect of the content and how it came to us and how we can send it along to other people and comment on it ourselves. There is essentially one way we communicate with each other and it's through these screens. There is no differentiation between a blog post, a tweet and the New York Times.
On the new technology that excites him most:
I'm interested in these social sites that are creating experiences where you can have access to your data. One of things Hunch is doing is it's letting you control your data. And then there are websites like Diaspora, which give people more access to their information so they're not so worried about what they're putting online and where it'll go. Another technology that I think is really exciting is 3D printing and rise of this 3D printing culture. Imagine I'm at home and I have a 3D printer and I lose the back of my remote. I just go download the schematic and print it out. Or if I'm having a dinner party and I need extra knife, fork, spoon, and plate, I can go to Ikea or some open source equivalent, and print out the things I need for the dinner party. I think that'll be pretty fascinating to watch over next five to ten years as that becomes a much more mainstream experience.
We asked Bilton to tell us the first word or phrase that came to mind for each of the following terms.
Steve Jobs: Perfection.
YouTube: Saturday Night Live "Cupcake Video."
Porn industry: Innovation.
The Social Network: We've made it.
Microsoft tablet: Invisible.
Google: Too big not to be evil.
Android: Fascinating. It's great to see a real competitor against the iPhone.
iPhone: Perfection. I think it's perfection, which is kind of bruised by AT&T.
Google TV: As far as Google TV specifically, I'm intrigued, but I think still to this day, no one has solved anything better than having a computer hooked up to your television with a wireless mouse and a wireless keyboard.