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Tech evolution: IPhones, wall calendars and human hosts

The iPhone is but one example of tech evolution creating a 'new normal.' What's next? Think human smartphones and embedded apps.

I got a calendar for Christmas, and I couldn't remember the last time I actually hung a calendar on a wall. My husband got another watch (he collects them), but he no longer wears them. Two more things rendered useless -- at least for us -- by our iPhones.

Christina TorodeChristina Torode

Add to that list our landline; those once-handy store rewards cards on our key chains (there's an app for that); my digital recorder (also replaced by a smartphone app); and the chalkboard in our kitchen that once was filled with daily reminders and now sports a doodle drawn by my niece over the summer.

What's the next tech evolution that will change my day-to-day life and how I interact with the world? I'm not sure, given that things that were once part of my daily life have slowly faded in importance. Even more disturbing? I haven't been conscious of the change. Until I saw that bear on the cover of that Greenpeace calendar staring back at me, I hadn't realized wall calendars had become passé for me. The implications for society of a single-device society are endless, if not overwhelming. If people now are less likely to hang wall calendars, how much is this hurting donations to organizations like Greenpeace? Technology is certainly changing the way the nonprofits seek donations, hence the sector's relatively new digital and social media effort.

In this digital age, retailers don't ask for my phone number but for my email, and I have to stop to consider which of my five email accounts I will give them. Never mind that I get bill payment reminders texted to me and no longer pay any of my bills through the U.S. Postal Service -- a mail carrier recently told my mother that her love of catalogues was keeping him in business. It is also her mission to help cashiers and tellers keep their jobs by never using self-checkout for anything.

But she is one person, and tellers, cashiers and possibly the U.S. Postal Service (which predicts mandatory cuts of around $20 billion by 2015, mostly as a direct result of technology) will go the way of wall calendars.

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In 2011, Dan Simpson, CIO at Physicians Mutual Insurance Co., said "Change is escalating and it is constant … .The question is, are you ready to participate in that change and lead that change to deliver business value in a timely manner?" He was speaking at a Forrester Research event and directing that question to an audience of IT leaders. Then a picture of graphene, a bendable, one-atom-thick substance that is abundant in nature and that some predict will replace silicon, flashed on the screen behind him. "When we move from a silicon-chip-based world into something like this … what kinds of consumer devices might we end up seeing, and what apps can be created?" he asked.

Indeed. What if this very bendable, minute material was implanted in people and they became walking smart devices? It's not that far-fetched a scenario, and it takes the potential of location-based services to a whole new (and weird) level. Think of apps for human hosts that are able to predict, prevent or diagnose health problems. Doctor's visits could become a thing of the past. What about the potential for using this chip as a way to prevent crimes by knowing where a would-be criminal is hanging out? Tracking people like we would track a piece of inventory is a cringe-worthy idea.

For now, let's leave it to hotels keen on stopping folks from swiping their towels.

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