Monday, February 11, 2013

Science Fiction Dreams and Travel Realities


Science Fiction Dreams and Reality this week on the blog
I have been busy with trade shows and travel this week and that makes it hard to stay on top of my business and blog.  One of the interesting things about travel is that it does move you outside your comfort zone.  I also got to see the best and worst trends in technology in their natural environments.  In this blog, I want to talk about how we are living in the best of all possible worlds right now when it comes to technology.
My flight was booked via an electronic system known as SABER which has been the backbone of the airline industry since 1960.  I traveled with a mobile phone running the android operating system with the Trackit application which allowed me in real time to follow my travel plans.  I also had a tablet which used Android with three books for me to read on my flight.  Throw in my laptop and I had more computing power at my disposal than many third world countries.  This was not out of the ordinary or unusual because many of the other business travelers I journeyed with were similarly equipped.
All of the airports I traveled through had Automatic Teller Machines but no pay phones because everyone had at least one mobile device to contact someone if they needed help.  Tweets were sent, Facebook status messages were sent and deals were negotiated in terminals while people were waiting for their flights.  There were even video chats taking place via Skype.  Again none of this was out of the ordinary or unusual.  The science fiction of my 1970’s youth had come true. 
This does not mean that everything was perfect.  American Airlines canceled my flight and their customer service was spotty.  Planes were on runways without crews and it was clear that some of the flight attendants were being forced to work extra shifts to deal with the traffic.  So a two hour trip to Atlanta turned into and eight hour adventure flying to Dallas and then to Atlanta. It was an example which illustrated even the best technology cannot stand up to bad weather, institutional inertia and poor service. 
I suppose this is why Voltaire spent so much time making funof Leibniz when he said that “We live in the best of all possible worlds.”  In spite of all the modern conveniences, which we enjoy, traveling still sucks.  It is also not made any better by the dysfunctional processes we have put into place to manage travel and airport security.  This has been mockingly referred to as a “First World Problem,” because this kind of thing is merely an inconvenience and does not have life or death consequences like cholera or malnutrition. 
We are living in a technological golden age; we just take it for granted.  We can communicate with anyone via our smart phones and computers but we find it hard to communicate with the people sitting next to us on the plane.  Social stratification, government short sidedness and corporate inertia make it difficult for us to utilize the utopian dreams of all the entrepreneurs who helped inflate the dot com bubble in the 1990’s.  I wanted to become an entrepreneur because I thought I could do something anything to escape the Kafkaesque world of software consulting.  I also thought that I could help small businesses play with the big dogs and better serve customers. 
It is a grandiose thought but one that still drives me and my business.  So we do not live in a perfect technology utopia which was promised twenty years ago but when I complained about my flight being late on Twitter no one censored me.  When I made a call to my bank to deal with an overdraft I was able to compare math with the customer service rep via a mobile application.  Finally, I made dinner reservations via text message and was able to update my boss via e-mail via my tablet. 
Travel still sucks but it sucks less thanks to technology people who like me who dream big and wish to make this the best of all possible worlds.
Until next time.