Another very interesting session was the one by Michael Rogers, who is a “Futurist – in – Residence” at the New York Times. Rogers writes a column called the Practical Futurist in NYT and his area of interest is in understanding new technologies and their impact on human life. His theme for the talk was virtualization – where people worked and interacted remotely and about tools that enabled it. He gave some cool examples of gadgets that we are quite familiar with and some that are not yet popular – smart phones is of course obvious. Rogers talked about smart phones that could project a virtual keyboard on any flat surface and could also function as a pico projector. Clearly, smart phones are only getting smarter!
He talked about Cisco’s and Xerox’s foray into telepresence and how this can substitute business travel soon. Rogers also feels strongly that there needs to be a balance between what can be done face to face and what can be done online – surely all things that can be moved online will be done so. In this context, he shared an anecdote related to digitizing efforts of a library. Apparently, 300 hundred years back, Italians used to dip their letters in vinegar to prevent the spread of cholera. And the vinegar can still be smelt after all these years – someone at the library found this out when the digitization effort was being carried out . Obviously, going online will deprive us of these quaint experiences which Rogers thinks is necessary and hence his caution – Don’t forget the vinegar. Overall, a fascinating talk which opened up so many possibilities!