Sunday, April 25, 2010

Can You Find Me Now?

I've been fortunate enough to be on a transformation project with South Korea's primary teleco, KT (Korean Telecom). They introduced the i-phone to the Korean market and they were kind enough to give us phones for the duration of our stay - phase I ends in mid-June.

Both of my colleagues have been i-phone enthusiasts in their home towns of San Jose and Amsterdam. This is the first time for me and I have to admit to its ease and usefulness of Apps. But I wonder what all of this is doing to the way we work and think. Yes, it changes your life, but what are we losing?

Here's my specific example. On day one our client met us at the hotel. The KT office is about five miles away and although Seoul is a sprawling metropolis of about 11,000,000 people, the drive to the office is not complicated. You turn right out of the hotel for half a block, right again for a long block, and then right onto Tehran. Go five miles and its the big blue building on the right. Easy, right? No!

We have i-phones with Google maps, text messaging, voice recordings and even a phone. Why use the physical world and the recognition features that humans have used for thousands of years to survive when you can use technology.

Day two we were on our own. We jumped into the cab and showed the driver the directions that our client had given us. The driver didn't understand. Panicing, we texted our client who emailed a new set of clearer directions - in Korean! The cabbie still didn't understand. We called our client who spoke to the cabbie. We finally got to work.

The next day was the same confused scene, but this time we couldn't connect with our client. I made the suggestion that we just turn right, right, and right. My colleagues that I was nuts. Why would we do that when we had our i-phones. Finally our client called and we rolled out of the hotel entrance.

Day four had all of the characteristics of the previous days, but this time technology saved us. We had been smart enough to record the directions from our client on our i-phones. Out we went into the world, but the driver still didn't understand. By the time we crossed over Tehran street there were three screaming passengers and three i-phone map Apps in the drivers face.

By the time we got to day five I convinced my colleagues that we just might be able to get to work the "good old way." It worked beautifully. Since then things have been fine.

I love technology. It has its place. But it can erode our survival skills. I suspect that children have already lost directional skills. They put their faith in GPS. It's a different world with a different way of thinking; but I'm not quite ready to give up my internal compass.