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The Future is Here: What's Next For Mobile Phones?

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Anthropologist Joshua Bell weighs in on new uses for cell phone technology at Smithsonian magazine's yearly festival

Forty-one years back, an engineer for Motorola, Martin Cooper, had an audacious idea: He wanted folks in order to take their phones with them anyplace. Sure enough, in April 1973, Cooper--who's now credited as the "father of the cell phone"-- became the very first person to create a call on a portable mobile apparatus. More than two pounds were weighed by the phone, and it took 10 hours to charge it for a just 35 minutes of conversation. It was a far cry from the glossy hand-held apparatus of today --and with its $3,995 price tag, it was hard to envision it ever becoming critical instrument in everyday life, used by everyone from jetsetting businessmen to elementary school kids.

For the past two years, an anthropologist at George Washington University, Bell and Joel Kuipers, have studied mobile phone tradition, as well as the myriad facets-- ethnic variability, ecological impact -- that underlie the now-worldwide occurrences.

A scholar of how cell phones shape our modern lives, Bell chose cues from both science fiction and his own research to offer up scenarios on how cellular technology will change...and in the process, alter us.

Cell phones will eventually be part of us...literally

Bell referenced the 2012 remake of the dystopian science fiction film Total Recall; it featured "intriguing notional technology"--planted circuitry, which enabled a palm to become a keyboard for an individual apparatus on which smart surfaces let users interface with others and also a broader grid. Naturally, the invention had its drawbacks: the picture's protagnoist eventually removes the unit from his body for the reason that it allows others to follow his every move.

The movie doesn't mention how such devices will be powered. Bell said, nevertheless, that they might turn into a reality based on both nanogenerators harvesting bio and movements -electronic currents.

Such technology raises nebulous--and possibly troubling--questions. "In this type of future, one has to inquire where one's self ends and begins," Bell notes. Such interfaces raise possibilities of "personal viruses" that could let people hack and steal stated advice from each other. "It does not take much to imagine a world where people access different apps that could both activate or suppress distinct genomic make up or amplify our capacities," he reflected.

Anthropologist Joshua Bell weighs in on new uses for cell phone technology at the yearly festival of Smithsonian magazine

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Mobile phones will simply continue to influence our existence, and have revolutionized daily life, says Joshua Bell, an anthropologist in the Natural History Museum. ((c) Innocenti/Corbis)

By Kirstin Fawcett

SMITHSONIAN.COM

MAY 2014

430 191 5 101 95 4.2K

Forty-one years back, an engineer for Motorola, Martin Cooper, had an audacious idea: He needed people to be able to take their mobiles with them anywhere. Sure enough, in April 1973, Cooper--who's now credited as the "father of the cell phone"-- became the very first individual to produce a call on a portable mobile apparatus. More than two pounds were weighed by the mobile, and it took 10 hours to charge it for a mere 35 minutes of conversation. It was a far cry from today's slick hand-held devices --and with its $3,995 price tag, it was hard to imagine it ever becoming a vital instrument in everyday life, used by everyone from jet-setting businessmen to elementary school children.

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Nowadays, smart phones are an inexorable section of our existence, a fact that isn't lost on Joshua Bell, an anthropologist and curator of globalization at the Natural History Museum. For the last two years, an anthropologist at George Washington University, Bell and Joel Kuipers, have studied mobile phone culture, as well as the myriad facets-- ecological impact, cultural variability -- that underlie the now-worldwide phenomena.

Bell, who's currently developing a brand new exhibit tentatively called "A Natural History of the Mobile Phone," was this weekend's first featured speaker at Smithsonian magazine's 2nd annual "The Future is Here" Festival.

Cell phones will become part of us...literally

Bell referenced the 2012 remake of the dystopian science fiction film Total Recall; it featured "intriguing notional technology"--implanted circuitry, which allowed a palm to become keyboard to get your own apparatus on which smart surfaces let users interface with others and also a wider grid. Obviously, the innovation had its drawbacks: the protagnoist, played by Colin Farrell of the film, eventually removes the device from his body for the reason that it enables others to track his every move.

The movie does not mention such devices will be powered. Bell said, nevertheless, that they might become a reality based on both nanogenerators harvesting bio and movements -electronic currents.

Such technology raises nebulous--and perhaps troubling--questions. "In this type of future, one must ask where one's self ends and starts," Bell notes. Such interfaces raise possibilities of "personal viruses" that could let individuals hack and steal specified information from each other. "It does not take much to envision a world where individuals access different programs that could both activate or suppress distinct genomic make-up or amplify our capacities," he reflected.

Operating systems that are intelligent will make us question what it actually means to be human

Before evolving beyond individuals and leaving us behind, says Bell, figures like Hal 9000 in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Samantha, the female discussing operating system in the Spike Jonze film Her (2013) will have significant relationships with us--"again, raising the matter of what this means to be embodied."

Cell phone owners will learn fix their apparatus, turn off and just how to rewire

For the past three years, Bell has followed the work of cell phone repair technicians in Washington, D.C. They repair broken smart phones and other mobile devices, as well as in doing so, reverse engineer apparatus that can be upgraded and altered but aren't regularly passed due to guarantee deals and consumer culture.

These technicians, says Bell, are spurring innovative insights into how to control devices assembled by corporations that are larger. Part of the "Maker Culture," or the "DYI" movement, they are also reminiscent of the worldwide network of makers and hackers that flourish in South Africa, Asia and Africa.

Someday, says Bell, we'll all be "hackers" in a sense, and able enough to make changes to our own technology instead of just purchasing new versions. "Does that mean I believe in 100 years from now we'll all be engineers?" he asks. "I am not too confident. But regardless of individuals' professions, some basic practical literacy will probably be vital."

Open-source technology connect us internationally will boost democracy and allow us to enhance our telephones

"Open-source is the only approach to truly have a http://thegreatest-escape.tumb lr.com/ redemptive future with our technology--not only to even out its unevenly-distributed nature, but so that people are able to work to create better devices," says Bell. By becoming part of technology itself, we will fear it less... and because of this, we'll will also "push the boundaries of what it indicates to be interconnected, living and human."

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