The other day I was walking down San Pablo Avenue in Albany, where just 160 years ago gold miners used to carouse away their earnings at French bordellos and bars, when I saw a Google maps car with the camera mounted on top parked in the lot of our Goodwill store. So a Google maps driver can only afford to shop at a thrift store?
And now, on my bicycle rides around town, I’ve had to avoid collisions with Spoonrocket food delivery cars speeding along my bicycle streets and sprouting red flags like the horns on stampeding bulls.
Another disruptive service: I signed up for a private driver to take me to the airport at 3:45 a.m. and pick me up 10 days later at 12:30 a.m. – hours when public transport doesn’t exist here in the SF Bay Area – through a new online site called Wingz, which undercuts taxi fares significantly. I even got photos and phone numbers for my drivers, who look like young, clean-cut immigrants from Afghanistan and China, respectively, both displacing their licensed taxi-driver brethren from an earlier immigration .
The promise of a service economy heralded in the 80s by Alvin Toffler has yielded a step ‘n fetch it economy for some. For those who create these digital delivery alternatives, on the other hand, it’s a far better world.
This weekend, the night before the Apple World Wide Developers Conference in SF, I went to the MacIndie party hosted by my longtime BMUG (Berkeley Macintosh Users Group) friend and Mac developer, Chuck Soper, at Jillians, a restaurant located across the street from the Apple event. The place was packed with young, gawky men in t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers, most eating voluminous amounts of pizza and chips.
I walked around asking people what they did and it was a retinue of one app maker after another. Co-founder of Odyssey Translator, Marty McDonough showed me the neatest iPhone app: it produces audio translations of tourist-like touch-screen queries, such as Where is the bathroom? After a while all the app hype began to merge into one long refrain. I needed to get out.
Remember, I’m a Berkeley type: no car, no TV. So I hadn’t seen any of the new HBO TV series, Silicon Valley. But I signed up to see the last two episodes of this series at an event sponsored by Techcrunch the same night as the Macindie party and it took place at the Metreon theater, located in the same building. I brought along another old BMUG friend, Chris Allen, who has an app, Infinite Canvas, which does a whole lot of things that digital publishers will appreciate.
The two last Silicon Valley episodes were eerily accurate in their depiction of the geeks I had just talked to at the party. It was as if Mike Judge, the creator, had dragged some of the MacIndie developers onto his Hollywood set. The storyline was raucously hilarious and also quite plausible. In fact, my friend Chris thought that the fake apps presented in the fake – with cameos by tech digerati Kara Swisher and Techcrunch founder Michael Arrington -- Techcrunch Disrupt contest depicted in these episodes represented real startups.
You know you’re living in a reality distortion field when it’s almost impossible to distinguish satire from reality.