In “How Will “Smart Mobs” Play Out?,” BusinessWeek asked questions to Howard Rheingold, who published the “Smart Mobs” book at the end of 2002.
Q: In your recent world travels, have you noticed any new developments in the year since your Smart Mobs book has come out?
A: Half the people in Tokyo aren't looking at their telephones now. They're looking through their telephones. The picturephone thing is really becoming something of a way of life there. People are sharing what's going on in their life.
Rheingold adds that future business applications for smart mobs might start anywhere in the world, like “finding out about the spot labor market in [an] African village.”
Q: So will the U.S. necessarily be the place where new enterprises based on this trend take root, or is it really lagging?
A: The assumption that it's going to come from Silicon Valley, or even America, may be looking in the wrong direction. This time, we may be seeing things come out of China or Brazil.
Speaking about Brazil, here is what says James Gosling, the leading guy behind the Java programming language, in “Social smarts,” published by Red Herring.
Consider the medical field. I was in Brazil and got a tour of the Ministry of Developments IT department. They wrote this whole new software suite that drives the Brazilian National Medical System. They have every patient-caregiver interaction in their database. When you go to a doctor and you get a prescription, you get a database entry printed out on a piece of paper. You can walk into any clinic and they can get your records immediately. All of your X-rays are online. You go to a hospital here in the U.S. and you are caught in a blizzard of forms. In Brazil, you just need your medical card.
Red Herring: What are the most pressing problems online?
Gosling: Oh, yes. The network is all about connecting people. The Internet is one big social experiment. But it's not just one social experiment; it is whole series of experiments. Take the way that online dating happens. Many people that I talk to are really happy with Internet dating services — much happier than the real world sometimes.
Gosling also talks about the entertainment industry which deeply hates Internet, and about the open source movement, of which he is a big fan. And of course, that leads him to talk about Microsoft.
When I look at the price tag for any Microsoft product, it just makes me cringe. Look at the Microsoft Word license which is about $500 or $600 per machine. Most people made that work by basically breaking the law and installing it at home on all of their machines.
Windows XP keeps you from doing that. Now you really do have to pay the $600 for all six machines. Theres no way that I could pay nearly $4,000 for a freaking word processor at home. It just isnt going to happen.
Please read the full interviews for more details.
Sources: Robert D. Hof, BusinessWeek Online, September 25, 2003; The Red Herring, September 25, 2003 [Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends]