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College Quarterly
Summer 2010 - Volume 13 Number 3
I Live in the Future and Here’s how it Works: Why your World, Work and Brain are Being Creatively Disrupted
Nick Bilton
New York: Random House, 2010
Reviewed by Rusul Alrubail

While the development of technology is coming at a rapid speed, the adjustment to this growth is occurring very slowly.  Professors are constantly worried that new technological devices may hinder students’ learning and performance in the classroom.  Nick Bilton, author of I Live in the Future and Here’s how it Works, assures us that they don’t.  I Live in the Future falls in the Business or Economics genre, yet the readership is wide and aimed at those with a variety of backgrounds and from different generations.  Bilton addresses the anxieties that exist due to the various technological methods of communication, and assures us that these anxieties have existed for decades throughout the development of our means of communication.

Bilton’s book helps with understanding the technological revolutionary shift.  He argues that storytelling and narrative is an essential part of our lives, and that technology serves as a tool to create, foster and enhance this narrative to ultimately be part of a community.  The book is divided into eight chapters with a prologue and an epilogue.  I Live in the Future provides a clear explanation of technological changes, such as the rise of social media and the devices that access this media.  Bilton highlights these through a framework of the history of these developments, an assessment of new technologies used and their purpose, as well as an expectation for the near future.

It is important to note that a thread of storytelling and narrative as the essence of our communication is weaved throughout the book.  Bilton makes it important for the reader to recognize that having a sense of community is ultimately what drives people to network through social media and various other technological outlets.

One would not think that technological history can be linked to the growth and expansion of pornography.  However, Bilton begins his book arguing that pornography was the first market to use technology.  His historical recap and research of the industry serves to show how pornography is always up to speed with the latest technological devices.  This section also serves to show that consumers will pay a price depending on the quality and the content of the experience.  Bilton then moves to tackle social media and networking, and the scrutiny surrounding these outlets.  One such scrutiny being that text messaging is a form of abbreviation, which he counters by noting that abbreviations have been a part of speech and language since humans began communicating (Bilton, 2010).   This idea aims to uphold the contention that our language is not deteriorating as a result of social media.  Bilton also refutes the claims that the use of an IPhone, IPad, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and any smartphone/media outlet impacts learning, education or language.  He in fact views their use as a contribution to “develop a new type of cultural communication” and that the world should acknowledge that these “kids” are helping to build new communities, culture and relationships (Bilton, 2010).

I Live in the Future provides a positive perspective on the effect of technology on our language and communication.  Instead of thinking that “this generation” does not read or write, we should think about their means of communication, reasons for their use, and the message they carry.  So although the newspaper might not be a popular read amongst adolescents, they manage to receive their daily news through Facebook links and status updates, Twitter tweets, and online articles (Bilton, 2010). This type of engagement with different communication sources allows the recipients to be great multi-taskers and to take in news from a wider variety of sources than traditional media.  However, professors do not believe that listening to a lecture and texting on the phone is multi-tasking.  In fact, professors view students’ technology use in the classroom as an obstacle to their learning.  The most beneficial aspect of Bilton’s book is that he specifically indicates to the reader that adolescents’ ability to multi-task and to be technology-oriented should not be viewed as a problem that needs to be solved (Bilton, 2010).  Instead, Bilton shows you a new point of view that “maybe these older types of content—books, movies, television and newspapers—aren’t adapting appropriately to the technologies and expectations of the young and old, of today’s adapted and more demanding brains” (Bilton, 2010).

Bilton’s book is helpful in allowing educators, technology oppositionists, as well as technology lovers to recognize the rapid pace at which this continuum is developing and how one can use it to their own advantage.  Even though the readers might not want to become part of this social media revolution, they will still be able to see the timeline of communication, technology and language and how it has changed over the past few hundred years.  This recognition within itself creates an element of calmness and acceptance of technological change and puts it into perspective for the reader.

Bilton paradoxically makes the swift change sound as if it’s a traditional part of the development of our communication, and to reject it is to reject progress and improvement.  While the book is helpful for many readers, as the genre is relevant to almost every individual who is witnessing the technological revolutionary shift, it often becomes redundant in providing historical parallels of change in our communication and change in technology.

I Live in the Future allows us to see that technology is not a hindrance to students’ education, but it can instead benefit their intellect if used appropriately.  This book is definitely worthwhile and rewarding if you are an educator and would like to gain a perspective and an understanding about the use of technology, its impact on yourself, the students and the educational community.


Rusul Alrubail teaches English Literature at Seneca College in Toronto. She can be reached at rusul.alrubail@senecac.on.ca

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