Flying to New York the other day to talk about mobility. Day started out with an upgrade to the new PS service on United that gives you the international 1st class experience domestically. That includes a plug for your iPhone, a personal screen with hundreds of channels, your own personal reading light and basically a pod office in the sky with wifi and outlets. In today’s world, we truly can be mobile anywhere, and our expectations are that we will have all the amenities needed for that mobile workplace whenever and wherever we are. This is proven by the moniker of the “Starbucks Experience” we hear about so often in the enterprise now. Our expectations in the 21st century or large and the world is changing to meet them.
Well, back to my flight, so I get on board and realize that they’ve done a bait and switch overnight and we have just a standard old plane with the regular old business class seats and a toilet that’s providing that oh so special odor that only seems to exist on airplanes and in port-a-potties. Complaints were rampant as we sat waiting to take off and the poor stewards and stewardesses did their best to calm those whose “Starbucks” expectations just weren’t being fulfilled. No we wouldn’t have our little pod offices in the sky, no USB plug, no outlet, no personal reading light and only one screen in the ceiling playing whatever they decided it would play.
This whole experience got me thinking. Now I don’t consider myself that old, I didn’t work with punch cards but my first computer experience was with a Trash-80 so I’ve been around a while. But looking back, it has really only been in the last five years or so that we have we begun to merge with our technology, becoming almost Borg like. The thought of being disconnected just doesn’t sit well anymore and for the digital natives it’s like being without air but is it really all that bad? We are living through a technological evolution that is changing everything, but as I sit here in my standard business class seat (what would have been a very nice benefit five years ago) I realize that I can still exist in this world without a USB plug. Sure, I’m still writing on a laptop and listening to my iTunes catalog on my iPhone and reading my latest favorite novel using my Kindle reader for Android on my Slate 7, but at any time I could turn this all off and just lean back and close my eyes. And maybe that’s what we are missing as we move through this human/technology evolution, the ability to drop off.
The world still needs thinkers living in dream worlds that have no real basis in reality because the reality they are thinking of doesn’t quite yet exist. It’s down the road somewhere but can’t be seen through all the technological noise that’s emanating today just like the stars can’t be seen in the big bright city. I’ve heard of turn off days (reference) and I’ve heard of getting off the grid (usually reserved for those with nefarious purposes), but it doesn’t need to be an all or nothing cold turkey type of thing. Maybe we just need that drive out to the country every once in a while to see the stars. That’s what I’m thinking right now. I think I’m going to turn off my laptop, shutdown my music, stow my tablet and put on the wonderful little eye mask that needs no plugs to work. I’m going off the grid for just a bit, so that I can come back with a new perspective on this next generation of mobile
I hope after reading this, you’ll do the same, whether it’s for two minutes or two days, take the time to disconnect. Take a moment, at least, to peer into that vast imagination of yours, that human technology that is so important to the next great invention or adventure.