Life Hacks, Then, Now and Beyond

The Huffington Post published another one of their lists, this one on 20 things that became obsolete this decade. This got me thinking about my life hacks before they were life hacks…that is, my means of living in Y2K compared to today.

Back in 2000, I was living on a remote island in Japan, Osakikamijima, population 3,000. The Internet was available at one location on the island back then, in the library at the Maritime College where I taught English classes. It would be another few months before Prime Minister Mori’s call to bring Japan up to date on Internet use would result in every town office and public school in the country to be connected. That’s how they do change in Japan: top-down, when I say go. Pretty cool.

Anyway, unlike my manner of travel today, I couldn’t just check the Internet, let alone keep in touch with my friends spread around the world. There was no Skype, so calling home was a prohibitively expensive undertaking. There was no YouTube or streaming video to keep up with American culture. In every sense, I was living in Japan…period. In fact, so total was my eclipsing from the non-Japanese world during my two years there, that even ten years later, I still find myself in conversations about what would otherwise be common cultural experiences, in which I have no idea what people are talking about. This usually elicits: “Wait, you’ve never heard of Office Space???”

That was the world in 2000: just seconds past the Y2K non-happening, and a good 20 months shy of the 9/11 ultra-happening.

In my apartment, I owned items like those below (with their contemporary replacement in parentheses):

  • A Sony Minidisc (Pandora)
  • A VHS player, connected by an analog line to my analog TV. (A DVD Player collecting dust jealously eyeing my Netflix-enabled laptop).
  • A CD boombox (A dusty CD collection converted to MP3s on my Network-attached Storage device).
  • A landline telephone with a fax and answering machine built into it (iPhone)
  • A shelf of books (dusty boxes on the back porch containing my library, replaced by Google Reader)
  • A Nikon FM2 fully-manual camera (iPhone)
  • A subscription to the English version of the Yomiuri Shinbun newspaper (Huff Post, Google News, various blogs)
  • Piles of xeroxed zines which I edited and published with some other foreigners (my blogs)
  • Oh, and I was saving up for one of those new $1,000 min-DV camcorders (iPhone)
  • Friends (Facebook)

Right away you’ll notice that the iPhone has pretty much replaced many of my old life hacks. Which brings me to….da da da! The Future!

What will my life hacks likely become by 2020? Some thoughts (likely to be blown away by concepts and gadgets undreamed of in 2010). Here are some ideas:

  • iPhone (iGoggles, possibly Android “Googles”)
  • Pandora (Pandora on the iGoggles with the possibility of earphone-less, sensory sound inputs)
  • Networked Attached Storage (myCloud hosted digital home with feeds to your iGoggles)
  • Netflix (the death of Hollywood and entertainment commodification through a YouTube-like distribution channel composed of hyper-realistic, CGI-enabled, user-generated movie-making tools).
  • Google Reader (text to podcast voice…all your news read by William Burroughs!)
  • iPhone camera (iGoggles with telescopic super spy zoom, mashed up with maps, augmented reality services and games)
  • Facebook (At least two other iterations of social networking that will come and go like the whims that they are, leaving us with some kind of service that mixes the real world with the virtual…like personal QR Code badges viewable through iGoggles that can call up your public profile. And networks that allow you to place barriers between your many social circles at work, play and that dark hole where nobody knows your name.)
  • Additionally, the consequences of burning too much fuel and running up too many debts will earn everyone additional life hacks such as personal carbon meters and a dynamically-generated, on-demand tab of your share of your personal and public debts.

Enjoy the future.




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