Mind of Howard Rhiengold
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AM: I think there is no line to be drawn, even
in the metaphoric sense. The line in the sand keeps getting washed
away and changed by new technology weather systems. And it will
all seem 'natural', which it will be. Permanent connection to the
Inet and IT.
Wearable computers of the near future will give rise to a situation
in which humans find it strange to communicate comfortably without
using their mind amplifiers. In the same way they find it difficult
to do calculations without their calculators. Instead of just talking
'about' the latest episode of Ally McBeal, the watercooler conversation
will feature your own variation of a highlight (in full color and
sound) shared simultaneously with your physical companions and your
Inet watercooler friends.
The merging of the 'real' world and 'cyberspace' will mean that
one can bring along friends (or not) when you go for a walk, jog,
play soccer or take a world cruise. In the long run, every act will
be a self controlled AV production, not just a few pictures between
And when there is direct thought to thought 'language' that develops
as a result of all this, then everything will change. But I could
be completely wrong... who knows?
DR: Howard, I'm thinking about "breaks"
and opportunties in careers.
Could you tell me a little about what you would consider to be the
first "major break" in your career -how it came about,
and how it positioned you for further opportunities?
HR: I think I got a lot of bad breaks. Tools
for Thought was supposed to put me on the map at age 35, but
first the publisher delayed it an entire season in order to rush
out the "Apple IIC book. Then, on the pub date, they dissolved
the entire computer book division, laid off 40 people, and forgot
to put my book on the order forms (which I only found out because
I had befriended the local rep). I got a break when my agent coerced
me into writing a book about Virtual Reality, a subject that didn't
interest me that much before a publisher got me interested.
AM: Howard, tell us about your breaks as a public
HR: That was totally accidental. When I researched
book, I was the only person in the world who had visited the
key labs in US, Japan, and Europe, so I kept getting invitations
to talk about VR. I brought the slides I made at the various installations,
and talked about the technology, where it came from, what people
were doing with it, and where it was going. It turns out that speakers
get treated and paid a lot better than writers. First class travel
and accomodations, and sometimes I get checks that amount to more
than I made in an entire year during the first ten years of my career.
It is exciting in one way: I love interacting with audiences, even
in a debate where they throw hostile questions at me. And I love
being in new places. And I learn something everywhere I go. It is
stultifying in the sense that I end up saying the same things over
and over, even though each speech is customized for its audience.
AM: What was your first enterprise, Howard?
HR: I started writing professionally at 23.
AM: What was your first company?
HR: Big companies have trouble writing checks
to individuals, so for the past 20 years, I've had "Clear Communications"
on my checks and letterhead. It's just a "doing business as"
name. Electric Minds was my first and maybe last corporation.