Deepening my Ideas Project question

Jerry —  May 3, 2010 — 5 Comments

Nokia has invited a series of geeks and gurus to ask questions as part of its Ideas Project. The questions stay up for a week; this is my week (woo!).

Here’s the question I asked:

How might mobile devices help people know and trust one another more deeply?

What do I mean?

The world of mobile app and device design is full of Pollyanna visions of how the devices will help us set up a date with our beloveds, complete with roses and limos (and fallback plans in case Cats is sold out). This vision was in General Magic‘s launch documents back in 1992.  Nobody’s yet fielded that app, but some are getting close, like Siri (which Apple just bought).

But I’m less interested in those use cases than in the ways our new, magical devices can help us tackle life’s raspier problems — like how we might all get along. Like making peace. That’s where I’m coming from in this question.

This may sound strange, but I’m inspired a bit by the Lovegety. LovegetyRemember it? Kind of a social Tamagotchi, without the high maintenance. You would code your preferences into your Lovegety and when it was close to a compatibly coded Lovegety, both would alert you that you should meet.

Ok, that’s a little weird, but what if our devices, when near each other, could sort out what we had in common? or not so much in common? And what if they could help us address those issues in a reasonable way?

How might we express what we care about?

Over the next days I’ll dive a little deeper into this topic, showing you an example of what I wish my device could declare on my behalf. Meanwhile, though, I invite you to comment on my question at the Ideas Project site (requires registration, but no tissue sample).



5 responses to Deepening my Ideas Project question

  1. Mobile devices are increasingly being used for payment purposes and in many cases complement the financing options available (think microfinance). By being able to pay for products and services with mobile devices over a repeated period of time, individuals are able to effectively build a credit history and reputation (for being honest, punctual, etc.). This helps others — both organizations and people — assess that person’s “social collateral” and in turn to trust him/her on that basis. It’s a different sort of trust perhaps — more transactional than f2f conversational — but increasingly relevant in today’s world of global, interlinked (and often virtual) markets.

  2. Interesting question. I was of course drawn in by your twitter question, can smart phones help us build peace? which makes me think of civil war and large scale unrest. In which case I say, no. Um, hell no? But when you break it down to a person to person basis it is an interesting thought. There may be space for smart phones to play a role in the world of conflict prevention/resolution. But as usual, we must be wary of the silver bullet, the golden egg. Smart phones and other wonderful technologies are not solutions to major social, economic, or political problems that cause unrest. Once large scale violence breaks out, neighbors and even family members who once trusted each other can flip in a second. I have no clue how to prevent that level of collapse, other than to build economic justice and equity. As April mentioned, mobile devices have done a lot to build trust and markets for entrepreneurs, so perhaps yes. In that way smart phones can be used to promote peace through economic development. On the other hand, mobile phones used to access markets and make sales in communities that previously lacked a strong financial infrastructure are not the sole solution, we still need to create major systems change. Technologies are bandaid solutions in lieu of a major changes, and perhaps also points of innovation as we pave the way towards these changes. But technologies alone are not the solution.

  3. I remember the Lovegetty, precursor to Tamagotchi, and I was in Japan when both were all the rage. Trust is the missing factor, like you said. But that can be said for any message over any medium- phone, in person, broadcast, or other. We can load up our devices with our interests and experiences and information could be triangulated in the cloud with others in close proximity in a new version of foursquare, but we still have to come up with a way to confirm that the person is who they say they are at the other end of the device, phone, screen, etc.

    I’ve been talking to the founders of Trusted Ones who are working in this area, to help you identify who within your social net are trusted contacts, and then assign degrees of trust to them- close friends, family, work friends, friends of friends, social acquaintences, etc.

    Can smart phones create world peace? Like April and Futressa I’d agree that the technology is not going to carry you all the way. They may make transactions, speed up credit authorizations, and act as payment or a means of fast checkout but face to face interaction is still required to determine trust. I’m not sure everyone is ready to broadcast their credit score and online reputation or “social collateral” to others via their mobile device to determine a sense of trust to talk to that person ringing your doorbell, or that you just bumped into. After all, it’s easy to hack any system, and that would result in the creation of mistrust. I tend to look at both sides of every coin.

  4. I like the concept of the device. Perhaps one of the most authentic ways to craft that kind of personality-matching algorithms is through the weighted, multiple-choice, user-generated questions used by OKCupid (free dating site). Almost any non-user-generated question/profile set runs the risk of having huge blindspots and biases in personal interests.

  5. I think some dating apps have done this lately; making it so that you know when a “match” is near you. My experience is that it is not useful.
    I would think we could have an app on our phone called “conversation starter” or something to that effect. We could program in things we like, political views, religious beliefs, places we had been, things we had done, people we had known and hobbies we do and we could check it to find a way to start small talk when we met someone. It would know what a match was and what not to mention. Example, don’t say anything about politics if one is a tea partier and the other a liberal.

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