October 17th, 2006

krazy koati

One, 0, 0, now you know

Around the Innovationation exhibit -- I'm going to be eating out on its stories for a while -- were questions on the walls, with spots to tap the radio frequency ID card and answer. First was ``Which technological leap do you think changed our world most? i. The internet. ii. Cable TV. iii. 3-G Mobile.'' That was crowded, with kids tapping several times over and getting no feedback. There were some pleasant chimes, but no hint if they were caused by tapping your card. Next was ``The first piece of technology I owned was: i. A computer. ii. A mobile phone. iii. A pager.'' Computer, for me; I've never owned a mobile phone or a pager. This would come back to haunt me.

``When everyone was talking about the Y2K bug, did you feel: i. Uneasy about technology. ii. Unsure about what would happen. iii. Confident that Singapore would be ready for anything.'' Odd as it may sound now, I believe in 1998 and 1999 I never thought about Singapore's Y2K preparedness. I abstained. ``Do you think technology is best used in: i. Making people's lives easier? ii. Giving people more to do? iii. Making money?'' That's a tough question to unambiguously answer, even if you're not someone who was once forced to give three qualified responses to the question ``Do you want to buy this pair of pants?'' despite wearing out the sales clerk's patience.

The next question was ``I carry a mobile phone so I can: i. Send SMS or E-mail. ii. Use in case of emergency. iii. Call people.'' That exhibit's guide said I should answer, because the card was building up a profile of my views of technology, whether I was aspiring, relaxed, or enthusiastic. I said I don't have a mobile phone, which seemed to distress her. She said I had to answer to get a profile. I wondered if it was safe to mention I skipped other questions and only technically owned a phone at all. She suggested I imagine what I'd use a phone for if I had one. I gave ``Use in case of emergency,'' although in past emergencies I've used e-mail. I had to guess I would be characterized as ``relaxed.''

The final question was `How do you feel about the future? i. Assured. ii. Challenged. iii. Inspired.'' That's also hard to unambiguously answer, but I went with inspired. And at the end of the hall, an iMac took my picture and reported I was ``enthusiastic'', and prone to being an early adopter of technology. Then my picture was bounced up on a large screen making an outline of Singapore out of pictures of attendees, and I was put into someplace around western Choa Chu Kang. I got to keep the card.

Trivia: In 1778 the Boulton & Watt company had about £42,500 in debt, and income of about £4,000. Source: Watt's Perfect Engine, Ben Marsden.

Currently Reading: Ideas: A History from Fire to Freud. Peter Watson.