As the iPhone turns 10, should we celebrate?

The iPhone just turned 10 and Apple sold 1.2 billion of the device, which has transformed our lives. Should we celebrate?

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Unbox Therapy

The iPhone just turned 10 and Apple sold 1.2 billion of the device which has transformed our lives, and reshaped the world economy into the “app economy.” The transportation industry has been deeply disrupted by Uber, and Facebook has redefined advertising while Airbnb has revamped hospitality. It will take years to grasp the profound change triggered by mobile devices on our society, how it has affected our relationships with our loved ones and how it has impacted the way we perceive the world around us, think and act.

If we just look at the bottom line, the app economy has failed to deliver economic growth, and unlike earlier technology revolutions like the computer in the ‘70s and the Internet in the ‘90s which have boosted labor productivity and growth. The app economy has contributed to the continuous decline of U.S. worker productivity since 2010, as described by Robert Gordon in his book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth.

So, what has gone wrong in humanity’s journey for progress and growth? 

The apps running on our mobile devices are all competing for knowledge workers’ attention, creating constant notifications and distractions and bringing us to a state of continuous partial attention, creating a constant cognitive burden and dramatically reducing our concentration and our ability to deeply think. That’s when the consumerization of IT has failed. The iPhone was designed for consumers — not for knowledge workers. It was designed for distraction while business needs focus. We need focus to listen to customers and co-workers, we need focus to get work done and we need concentration to solve complex problems. What may have worked for consumers has failed for knowledge workers.

The app economy has focused on the technology rather than focusing on people. The next generation of computing needs to put the human being at the center, respecting our need for serenity and concentration. The very concept of the app is wrong—humans think in term of topics, not in term of apps.

Here’s where the concept of topic computing comes in. The idea is to break down information silos and better connect the hundreds of disparate apps enterprise workers are using. This works by presenting information from multiple apps and cloud services by topics. For example, all the information specific to a project, a marketing campaign or a specific customer would be presented under a single topic, rather than being scattered in a multitude of apps: email, CRM and cloud document repositories. Having all the relevant information associated with a key topic can lessen cognitive load by working the way the human brain naturally processes information.

Advances in natural language processing and machine learning make it possible to automatically understand the key topics of an email, a document or even a picture or a video. If you read an email or a document then this text defines your current cognitive context and the key topics you are focused on. By pulling in associated content from multiple cloud services related to these key topics preserves context and focus and improves productivity. Additionally, building a graph of relationships between people, content and topics will enable a quantum leap in user experience for the enterprise worker.

So happy birthday iPhone, I still love you and your apps, but, in the next decade, let’s focus less on you and more on me, let’s stop technologizing humanity and start humanizing technology.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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