Nick Bilton, lead writer and technology reporter for the Bits Blog at the New York Times, rebels against the idea that technology and the Internet are rotting our brains. In his book, I Live in the Future & Here’s How it Works, Nick presents a history of technophobia and doomsday predictions to exemplify that humans have always had a natural resistance to change. However, once we overcome our fears and adapt to new technologies, our brains evolve in positive ways.
Recently, we had the opportunity to chat with Nick over coffee to learn some additional information about his new book, as well as a few of his personal quirks. Here’s our interview with Nick Bilton:
- What was your primary impetus for writing this book?
I kept hearing all these things about how technology is negative for society and the next generation. As someone who has grown up with computers, I just knew that wasn’t the case. That’s why I stepped up and did the research for the book. I wanted to defend technology and the Internet.
- In your book, you say that the Internet equalizes media conversations, allowing anyone with online connectivity to participate in conversations about the news (among many other things). What is your advice for professional journalists in this new media consumption landscape?
My advice not just for journalists but anyone in business: the next gen workforce will use social media tools and the camera on the phone and the ability to take and edit anything without fear. When they enter the workforce, they will bring this with them. Everyone should embrace this as they have and not be so fearful. They’re not going away. They’re going to be more pervasive. The Internet generation is going to be sitting in the cubicle next to you. Kara Swisher does interviews on her iPhone. Find a balance. You don’t need a multi-million dollar studio to shoot video. Now you can get an HD camera for 50 bucks. There’s a balance between the speed you want to tell the story and the quality your customers expect. People are very forgiving. It’s not about quality anymore. It’s about convenience and access. Quality is lower on the list than it was for the movie theatres.
- You describe the future of technology as one that is hyper-personalized, leading to more relevant content. Clearly, a decent amount of individual user data is required for this vision to be realized. What is your recommendation for someone who wants to participate in the “me-centric” technology paradigm but also wants to preserve some measure of privacy? Perhaps you can share with us your own guideline for toeing this balance.
I am very wary of what I put and where I put content. On flickr, I post photos that I think are beautiful. Twitter is strictly for business with a little personal thought thrown in there. Facebook for me is too muddy and filled with people I don’t know well. But I have private accounts for all these services that only my friends and family are part of. I learned about this the hard way. There was an instance when I posted photos of my sister at the beach and one of the photos got 10k views and ended up on someone’s blog. Another time, I checked in on Foursquare to a private dinner and someone showed up to see me. We’re all still sorting this out — what’s right wrong, what’s public and private — and we still have to wait to see what happens at the end. The tools are still being built as we’re using them. Learn as you go along.
- Bits and bytes about Nick Bilton:
- Favorite nonfiction book: The Night of the Gun by David Carr, a personal friend
- Favorite novel: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- Favorite film: “True Romance“
- Favorite video games: Tetris, Super Mario Brothers (the original), and Mike Tyson’s Punch Out
- Do you believe in ghosts? Only if they include dead people.
- Do you believe in aliens? I believe in other life forms and prefer not to label them aliens.
- Who’s your inspiration? I’m inspired by everyone I interact with, from the good to the bad to the people in between.
- Do you believe in robots? Yes, at some point I hope to own one and it will be like my digital best friend but I think we’re a little ways off before we get there. My dream is to come home from work and there’ll be a robot who asks me how my day was.
- Favorite vehicle: vespas
- How old were you when you wrote your first computer program: I was four years old.