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Jargon watch: smartphone zombie

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Digital engagement

Hong Kong was the first place that I had every been where on the mass transit system specifically warns you to not look over intently at your phone and pay sufficient attention to riding the escalator.

Over 80 per cent of Hongkongers between the ages of 15 and 34 own a smartphone; so South China Morning Post‘s article about the perils of smartphone zombies roaming around seemed appropriate.

A smartphone zombie is someone cocooned in their own world of mobile social updates, email or games who  is distracted in walking or travelling on public transport.

The Cantonese for the phenomenon is dai tau juk or ‘head down tribe’.  It would be wrong to portray this as a purely a Hong Kong phenomena, with articles covering it in China, the US and Japan over the past year alone.

The US talked about it in terms of an addiction, whereas coverage of China, Japan and Hong Kong looked at it as being broadly anti-social behaviour.

More information
Beware the smartphone zombies blindly wandering around Hong Kong | SCMP (paywall)
Japan’s smartphone ‘zombies’ turn urban areas into human pinball | Japan Times
Putting Smartphone Zombies In Their Place | TechCrunch
How your smartphone is turning you into a zombie | The Tennessean

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On smart watches, I’ve decided to take the plunge

Reading Time: 2 minutes

So I have decided to take the plunge into wearables. My previous attempt with the Nike Fuelband didn’t go very well as I seemed to break them with frightening regularity and never really learned much from the experience apart from Nike can’t build hardware.

I haven’t gone with Samsung wrist watch, or the better looking Sony one. I will not be rocking a pre-release device from Apple. Instead I have gone to a smart watch pioneer who gave us the Data Bank in the 1980s.
blue G-shock
Casio has built a low power Bluetooth module into a G-Shock that gets up to two years on a lithium battery and is still water resistant to 200 metres. Realistically I would be happy if I got 12 months out of it. It uses its Bluetooth skills to give you basic notifications around email, incoming calls and alerts across Facebook, Twitter and Weibo.

At the mid-point in the price of G-Shock watches, it means that the upgrade path isn’t exactly painful. The G-Shock strikes the right balance between robust hardware and disposability required for technology improvements.  In fact, I’ve worn a G-Shock before when travelling to span timezones and as a timepiece that I won’t get too attached to if it gets stolen – the smart watch G-Shock has the advantage of my phone being on view less often, ideal for the crime-filled streets of Shepherds Bush or Shenzhen.

I think the smartest thing about the watch is it’s deliberately limited scope to provide notifications. I don’t think that Casio has it perfect, in fact I can see how the power-saving function on the Bluetooth module is likely to miss messages; but I think that they are on to something with this approach – and so I am willing to give it a try.

I am surprised that these watches aren’t being sold in Apple stores around the world given G-Shock’s brand presence in the street wear community. Maybe Casio hasn’t got their act together, or Apple aren’t particularly keen on the competition.

Oh and I won’t look-or-feel like a complete dick wearing it.

More information
“Generation 2 Engine” Bluetooth® v4.0 Enabled G-SHOCK | Casio – yes their marketing sucks with a naming structure only a Microsoft product manager could love
Comparison Chart of Mobile Link Functions – Casio

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Oprah time: Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow

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Masamune Shirow’s Ghost In The Shell is a three-volume manga series (volumes 1, 1.5 and 2) that is based on a Japanese security service team who try and solve cyber-crime related issues. The stories deal with a future where technology is embedded into human beings and augment them. It is also based around a world where the internet of things is an everyday occurrence.

The author obvioiusly goes deeply into the story as a thought experiment with copious side notes explaining either technological developments or why he has made certain decisions. Whilst I love the anime adaptions, this insight into Shirow’s thinking makes the books invaluable.

The books seem to have been remarkably prescient about hacking. In previous literature, hackers were generally on the side of good or libertarians. In Ghost In The Shell you have cyber warfare and cyber crime similar to our own reality today. A crumbling healthcare system, organised crime, private military entities and shadowy state actors.

Unfortunately, the designers of smart televisions and refrigerators didn’t pay much attention to these books, otherwise they would not have left these products so open to being hacked. Come for the sci-fi stay the course of the books for the underlying ideas.