How Apple's iPhone has already changed the planet

I thought I'd take a break from my customary verbosity today in order to quietly point out how the Apple [AAPL] iPhone -- and the smartphones which followed -- have transformed the way we experience the world. All you need to do is take a look at these two images captured during the Papal inaugurations in 2005 and 2013:

screen_shot_2013-04-18_at_14.15.18.png

[ABOVE: This image was taken from a presentation at Belgacom's M2M event today by futurist, Gerd Leonhart. While low quality, I also think these images speak a thousand words.]

The smart planet

If you stop for a moment and consider it, this week has seen multiple instances in which the connected smartphone planet has made itself apparent, for example:

  • The appalling events in Boston this week saw law enforcement rifle through thousands of videos and still images captured by ordinary people on the ground using their smartphone (or iPad).
  • The funeral of an ex-Prime Minister in the UK also saw the few attendees hold iPhones, iPads and those other devices aloft to capture the £10 million moment. (The UK government recently cut arts funding by £11 million, citing "austerity".)

This is how many people on the planet now experience key events:

Within moments of a favorite band climbing a stage, a celebrity leaving a shop, a protest against government iniquity or any of the billions of personal daily moments of victory and struggle, images fly across the planet on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

Digital tribalism

We're developing a collective existence, we are becoming some form of international society in which we are seeing the emergence of digital "tribes". We're human, so we don't share attitudes or consciousness, but across our networks we tend to bond within groups who feel more or less the same.

The impact? Would the Arab Spring have taken place without these connected devices?

It's inevitable that these devices that put the Internet inside everybody's pocket continue to change the way we live our lives. The Internet was originally designed as some form of control system for the US in the event of nuclear war, before leaking into higher education and then reaching the public.

Now it is disrupting traditional business models and creating new ones.

Flip fast through facts and fictions in the history book, and you'll see that:

"Over 70 percent of Apple's revenue and 48 percent of IBM's revenue comes from products that were impossible to offer (or even 'plan') just a few years ago." (Gigaom).

Flip further to the future in which ever more devices will become connected (M2M), and it's pretty clear that we don't know what to expect, other than continued exponential change. (Gerd Leonhart has a few good ideas about how things might evolve).

But for a visual representation of how the way we experience our reality has changed, I think these images taken during a historically recurring important world event just a few years apart from each other tell the story far more effectively than a thousand words ever will. We watch lives through a connected lens.

The effect? There is such a thing as society -- the difference is that that society is now international, connected and immediate.

Are you connected? Because the future will be.

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when these items are published here first on Computerworld.

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