Orc A.I.

Crazy Hiptop mobile-internet moment

Early today, I was having breakfast with my girlfriend Emily in the West Village in Manhattan. I wanted to get a haircut, so I asked her if she knew of a cheap place I could go nearby. We both wracked our brains, but we couldn’t think of one; even though we walk around the neighborhood all the time, we didn’t pay enough attention to the stores that we’d noticed a barber or discount hair salon.

But hey — I had my Danger Hiptop with me. So I whipped it out and Emily did a Yahoo Yellow Pages search for “haircut” in our area code. Cool, I thought; this is a great example of location-based mobile services — sorting data based on where you’re standing.

“Hey,” said Emily, peering at the tiny Danger screen. “There’s a Supercuts nearby! Oh, cool — it’s on Sixth Avenue, right north of 3rd Avenue. That’s right where we are! Wait a minute, that’s … oh … “

She trailed off and looked out the window. And there, right across the street, was the Supercuts we were reading about online.


I’m as cyborg-positive as the next geek; I look forward to using wearable computers to help me navigate the world. But consider how totally pathetic this was. WE DIDN’T EVEN HAVE THE COMMON SENSE TO LOOK OUT THE DAMN WINDOW. No, my first instinct was — let’s check the Net. In a mobile world, we need data to help us recognize what’s sitting physically right under our noses.

Every once in a while I feel like I’m living in a New Yorker cartoon.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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