The Disappearing Computer

The disappearing computer — and a world where you can take AI everywhere

Imran Chaudhri | TED Talk

I have watched this talk a couple of times and love the idea. I see two large hurdles, even if the device works flawlessly. The first is the biggest point of friction for me… how to get sound into and out of the device, the microphone and the speaker. My ears don’t like things shoved into them anymore. They don’t even like headphones on top of the ears anymore. It’s a huge bummer. My ears get infected and I on this recent tour had to shove in ear monitors into them anyway, every night for at least 90 minutes. I made appointments with several ENTs but many are booked months in advance. I followed the advice to mix a few drops of tea tree oil with a carrier oil and put a few drops of that mixture into my ears. I didn’t expect much success but was willing to try anything because once the infection goes deeper into the ear canal it can become dangerous. I need my ears. I did the tea tree oil treatment and I also put my ear down on a towel covering an ice pack. The cold felt good. This morning my ears are a lot better. I was surprised as I didn’t think it would work and expected to have to find a doctor who would prescribe some kind of steroid creme to me, to combat the infection. While I seem on the mend now, I am clearly not excited to put things into my ear even when I am not working. And the device shown in the above linked talk clearly requires some kind of in ear thing to work… unless we get a tooth implant with microphone and speaker built in????

The second problem I see is that people actually love the distraction a screen provides. Waiting to board a plane, waiting in line for coffee, waiting for a meeting or an appointment: out come the devices!! Looking around after my flight home landed I noticed that nearly everyone had their phones out. Some contacted the people who would pick them up at the airport but in many cases Facebook and Instagram timelines were scrolled and scrolled and scrolled…. 

Maybe there is a third problem, the fact the phone is such a Swiss Army Knife: phone, camera, notebook, book library, flashlight… 

I can’t wait to find out where Humane will take this idea. I find myself cheering them on despite wondering whether it can work.

Sunday Morning

I woke up early and went for a walk. Many trees in town are showing gorgeous autumn colors. Took a few phone snaps. What’s the best camera? The one you are carrying. It was the coldest I have felt in months, but the clear mountain air was a pleasure.


My mobile hasn’t rung in over a year.

A few years ago I posted about the need to rethink mobile phone rings – link.

Last year, at the beginning of Spring, I was in California to play a private gig. I wondered how I would keep track of time during the performance. I had stopped wearing a watch, because mechanical watches feel too heavy for my wrist, and I am too shortsighted to be able to see the time on a phone at my feet. When I perform with the band we all wear IEMs and I would sometimes ask our engineer to speak to me between songs to let me know what time it was, especially in venues that have a second show or a curfew. I have been to concerts where a musician on stage obviously checked their watch – I have heard that jokingly referred to as the musician salut – and felt that the act of looking at their watch ruined the idea that the experience of music should take us to a timeless place, a little journey outside of time.

Until the end of 2017 Jawbone made a bracelet that counted steps and tracked sleep. There was no display of any kind on the bracelet, but with the Jawbone phone app one could set up alarms. It worked well, the bracelet secretly vibrating at a set time to let me know that my performance should come to an end, but the Jawbone bracelets never lasted very long. I think I went through six of them in three years, and my last Jawbone UP had broken a few weeks earlier.

In the morning, while I drove around to find something to eat, I noticed an Apple store in the vicinity. I decided to drop in and to check out the Apple watch.

The watch is light, much lighter than a mechanical watch, and I never notice it while I am playing guitar. The vibrating alarm fucntion didn’t work for me because the alarm is persistent, meaning that one has to physically turn it off – the Jawbone UP alarm only vibrated for a few seconds and then shut itself off. I discovered that the calendar reminder function of the watch worked better than the alarm… just one little vibration.

In addition to minding time on stage the Apple watch also changed my relationship to the phone. My phone has been silent for the past year. When I get a call or a message my watch vibrates. Nobody else notices it. If I want I can see who is calling me, without pulling the phone out of my pocket. How civilized! It’s also so much easier to ignore a call now. The world could me a much quieter place…