Alpha Geeks

Tim O’Reilly of the O’Reilly Network gave a keynote address titled Watching the “Alpha Geeks”: OS X and the Next Big Thing at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in May this year. It was a speech about the concept of watching, well, Alpha Geeks’ [first in the digital foodchain ;-)] and hackers’ personal hard- and software innovations and analysing these as “weak signals” to catch a glimpse of the technological future.

One example he referred to was the story of a hacker-slash-developer, who is using speech synthesis (a basic version of which is included in WindowsXP) to listen to chatroom discussions while coding. O’Reilly concludes:

“Now I’ll guarantee that lots of people will routinely be converting text to speech in a few years, and I know it because the hackers are already doing it. It’s been possible for a long time, but now it’s ripening toward the mainstream.”

Ripening towards the mainstream? Get this: the furture is here already. Last week an older (and I’m talking 45 here, at least!) guy at my gym asked me about my mp3 player. Today he showed me his new iPod-like acquisition, which even includes a small (but optically magnifiable) screen to watch video.

But his main interest, he told me, is to listen to scientific documents while running on the belt. I am slightly impressed, I have to say. When’s the last time you listened to a .pdf-file at 13 km/h?

I guess running will lose the reputation to free your head rather quickly now…