The Future Is Here, Now

Oh, how we have adapted!

Humankind is almost unique in nature: we are one of the rare species that is adept at using tools to fashion a liveable environment around us rather than being a species that has no choice but to adapt through evolution (For example, certain moth species evolved into butterflies in order to avoid nocturnal predators such as the bat). Man, as a species, fashions an environment to suit his needs. From sea-level to the highest peaks, from the desert areas to the extreme cold of the poles, humankind has adapted his environment in order to survive.

Changing our world to suit our needs implies progress, of course: for thousands of years, humans lived in caves either scavenging or eating raw meat. Fire would have been used for warmth alone, until our ancestors discovered the delights of cooked food (no doubt by accident). Our brains developed into what they are now through the eating of cooked meat, according to most experts. This, in turn, would have led to the carving of tools, which allowed our forefathers to adapt to the extremes of nature. And then there is language, of course, adding to the mix: spoken, articulated communication allowed us to spread our ideas, helping us to become masters not only of our own destiny, but masters of all we survey.

And so it continues…

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The Rate of Progress

No longer cave dwellers, humankind has progressed, is evolving, and will continue to advance. Moore’s law of course states that computer processing power will double every two years, but I believe that this law is indicative of progress in general.

Consider this: Leonardo da Vinci first drew his ‘Aerial Screw’ in the 1480s. It wasn’t until 1878 that Enrico Forlanini was able to demonstrate his first working helicopter. That’s 400 years from conception to creation!

Now? Many say that there is nothing left to discover. However, the pace of progress and change is speeding up, rather than slowing down. One hundred years ago, one could only read about the ‘new’ telephone: indeed, Graham Alexander Bell could only imagine a world with one telephone in each city! Now, they’re omnipresent and ubiquitous: fixed lines, satellite and mobile-phones… Thirty years after the mobile first started to appear, our phones are now capable of – well, its probably easier and less time consuming to list the things the mobile phone can’t do.

Which brings me to the iPad.

I remember watching sci-fi shows on TV as a child. It may be true that some of the shows are now dated in their appearance, but some of the imagination that went into these shows is what you, as an iPad owner, are now holding in your hands.

Withings Blood Pressure Monitor armband

Withings Blood Pressure Monitor armband.

The iPad allows me a present that has been pure dream for so long. I have interconnectivity with my computer, so long available uniquely in the world of business. I can communicate with my home: not only are there apps to tell me what’s on the box, but there are apps that control the box, too. I can check for intruders at home while I’m at my desk at work. While away skiing, I can control my home heating. I can check my blood pressure, diagnose my illness, and thanks to virtual reality apps, I can point my iPad at my street to find out where the nearest doctor’s surgery is. Or restaurant. Or train station. Other apps, such as VNC apps allow me to use my desktop computer while said computer is in a different place or room.

If I want to take some movies on holiday? Ever the bane of travellers, luggage space is always at a premium. It weighs me down, it takes up space, it means paying extra if I go over my allowed limit on the flight – enter iPad! No longer do I need to take DVD discs with me, in the hope that the third-rate hotel I booked has a DVD player. No longer do I need to take a laptop and extra external hard discs. I just pack an iPad, and an app. Open the iPad in the Wi-Fi equipped hotel, touch the app. All my movies stocked at home are available free on the iPad. No Wi-Fi? No worries: just buy a SIM card.

At home, with the help of a couple of pieces of inexpensive hardware, such as an AirPort Express or the Apple TV box, I can take my tunes with me as I walk around, piping the music to the desired speakers as I go. Or, I can take that movie I’m half way through in the living room to bed with me, picking up exactly where I left off. No wonder Apple is cutting out the CD/DVD drawers: they’re just simply no longer necessary. The film is there, on the TV, seemingly by magic (and a wee bit of help from iPad and connected devices).

BlueDriver car diagnostics app

BlueDriver car diagnostics app.

Car trouble? Tired of the garage telling you that ‘this or that’ needs replacing? Just connect iPad to the CPU of the car, open the associated diagnostic app, and the cause of the problem will be revealed. Of course, the iPad has one huge advantage over the local garage: honesty. iPad isn’t going to tell you that the suspension is broken when it’s just a flat tyre causing the bumping and grinding!

Information is now omnipresent, too, thanks to the iPad. No longer do I need to rifle through archives at the local library. No longer do I need to find an internet café and pay extortionate sums for 5 minutes connection time. I just open the iPad, touch the app, and bang! All the information I could ever need is right in front of my eyes, whether this be from one of the many Wikipedia apps, or a specialist app such as ‘Star Walk’.

Hardware and Apps ‘Make It So’

Of course, the iPad is just the hardware. I’m sure it would be much less useful if not for the apps, or for the 3G (or 4G) connection (depending on the model you purchased), or without the Wi-Fi chip. But what hardware it is! It’s mobile, it’s solid and well made, it’s not tied to wires and it’ll go on seemingly forever without needing constant charging.

Steve Jobs was right: it just works. I look to my parents or grand parents for the proof of that. Often, the older we get, the less able we are to keep up with modern technology. Too often, newfangled means ‘too complicated for us oldies: after all, we are in our 90s!’. Time and time again I’ve seen my parents struggle, seemingly for hours, on their home PC. It’s not intuitive. It’s slow. It’s prone to viruses. It’s always asking if my parents are sure – like, really and truly, not likely to change their minds halfway through, 100% certain – that they want to open that file they just received via e-mail.

The PC experience is exhausting, frustrating, and immobile. No wonder my parents rarely turn the damn thing (as mother would say) on.

iPad changed that for them. You should see them go!

The ‘heavenly thing’ (as mother calls it) has transformed their understanding of the world around them – as progress is wont to do – and has removed their fear of technology. When they take the two day car trip from their home in the UK to their little retirement nest in the south of France, guess who navigates? I’ll give you a clue: there’s an app for that. The paper maps are now stored away in the boot of the car, gathering mould underneath the spare tyre. They’re not quite at the stage of letting go completely, however, they insist that the paper maps may come in useful one day. Although that day will probably be the day that they line the cats’ litter tray with them!

Back In Time, 23:59.45s: Tools

Back In Time, 23:59.45s: Tools

And if we ever forget what life was like before iPad? Well, there’s an app for that. Check out Back in Time if you want to be reminded just how much history is out there, and how quickly we’re moving forward. Alternatively, you could download Steam Punk! to see a few snapshots of how different technology could have been…

Every time I need reminding of the speed of progress, I just pick up my iPad. Yes, just pick it up, nothing else. Just feeling its tapered edges, or stealing a quick glance at its screen is enough to remind me: the future IS here. I can touch it, I can feel it, I can see it. Two years after its introduction, I still feel awe and wonderment when I consider the iPad – much like the first cave men would have felt upon inventing the wheel. (Or, should that be how his neighbours would have felt upon seeing the first wheel in action?)

It’s Not Just a Thing, the iPad

It’s more than even the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could ever have hoped to be, were it real: it’s an encyclopaedia; it’s a toy; it’s a remote control; it’s a diagnostic device for me, my car and the world around me; it’s a means of communication, both with other humans, and other machines; it’s my library for books, magazines, music and film.

But it’s more even than this: it’s my entire world, my whole universe. Which explains why it never leaves my side.

What does iPad mean to you and to your nearest and dearest? Do you use iPad to automate your world or are you just content with being able to read your RSS feeds in an intuitive way? I’d love to hear how you use your iPad to bring progress to your door, and to hear how iPad is fashioning your world.