Letter From New York April1, 2010

Or, as it seems to me

Last week was spent in Las Vegas, attending the CTIA Wireless show – all things mobile. I saw every conceivable phone cover, saw a large number of apps aimed at men 18 – 34, mostly sports oriented, and anything and everything else that had to do with the mobile phone industry. The phone manufacturers touted all their phones though it was interesting that anything that wasn’t a smart phone seemed almost quaint no matter the pizzazz put into the design. For whatever reason, the Pill Phone stuck with me. It would tell you what pills you were taking, what they did, and remind you when you should take them.

It was an amazing time. I came away with the certainty that mobile would rule the world – that we are transitioning away from the place based computer to one that you can hold in your hand, take anywhere with you and soon will be able to do everything that your desktop can do. James Cameron, he of TITANIC and AVATAR fame, was on a panel saying that 3D would be coming to your mobile device. It is all going to be there, in the palm of your hand.

One of the most charming characters present was Biz Stone, co-founder of TWITTER, which has been thinking of mobile since the service was first a gleam in the eye of Mr. Stone. TWITTER has become a force in all kinds of places and a catalyst for social unrest. Witness Iran. What do you think, Mr. Stone, about the events in name the place? How do you feel about the revolution? This was not exactly, I suspect, what Biz Stone was thinking when he conceived TWITTER but it is the way TWITTER is being used – as a catalyst for social movements. He told the amazing story of a young American student journalist arrested in Egypt who twittered from his mobile: arrested. It pulled together his friends, his teachers, a whole movement which had him out of prison almost as fast as he had found himself there. The Egyptians hardly knew what had hit them. Appropriately enough, on his release he twittered: free.

Besides being deluged with mobile technology advances, I had the chance to stop for a moment and have dinner with old friends, Chuck and Lois Bachrach, which served to remind me that as giddy as we get with the devices we hold in our hands, the main purpose of those devices is to hold us together with the people who matter.

And while I was being dazzled by the technology, by the Pill Phone, by the thought of 3D on my small screen, Congress went and passed Health Care Reform, which I learned from a CNN alert sent to, of course, my iPhone. I’ve stayed fairly clear of Health Care – I don’t pretend to understand the nuances of the legislation though I know I found it particularly disturbing that the U.S. ranked 37th in the world for health care. That seemed pretty poor to me. But it was all a debate that went beyond me. I wanted better but wasn’t sure if what was being proposed would lead to better. All the noise…

But, at the end of the day, Health Care Reform was passed and it was, “a big [bleeping] deal,” thank you Mr. Biden. You have provided the perfect comment to landmark legislation, bringing it to the patois of the proletariat, the language of us all – whatever this piece of legislation is, it is a big bleeping deal as health care reform has eluded passage by Congress for over a century. It’s hard to believe but all of this started back with Teddy Roosevelt.

The dark side of it, unfortunately, is that passage has resulted in protests that go beyond the pale of what should be happening in America. Do we really need death threats to accompany passage of a piece of legislation? Does vandalism need to be the coda? I wish I remembered my Civics lessons better – has this much anger been evidenced in the past or is this a new phenomenon in the life of the Republic? Certainly it seems deeper than any divides that I recall even as technology builds bridges across the divides.

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