Response to Jan Chipchase’s “The Anthropology of Mobile Phones”

In Jan Chipchase’s TED talk, “The Anthropology of Mobile Phones,” he makes several observations and predictions on human behavior and the future of mobile devices. The first observation he notes is that humans have a tendency to carry three objects: key, money and mobile devices. This, according to Chipchase, meets our basic needs. This is still true today, but what I find even more interesting is the idea that humans delegate tasks, especially those that go beyond our basic needs. Smart phones, in many ways, are devices that handle delegated tasks. We use them to record notes, take pictures (and store pictures), to send us reminders, to automate tasks; smart phones compute tasks that we don’t have to use additional mental energy for. Chipchase also argues that because of immediacy, things will move much more rapidly around the world. Today, over 1 billion people are users of Facebook and, as of 2016, an estimated 2.1 billion people use smart phones. Content, images, banking are all being processed and shared at rapidly growing rates; all of this has occurred within 10 years of Chipchase’s talk. Another point he made was that street innovation will be a greater force that will have to be anticipated for. Though this may be true in developing markets across the world, it’s hard to see on the surface whether street innovation can be observed on a global scale. In some ways, app market places, are a place for innovation. Products such as Uber and Venmo have radically changed other markets in the world and have all came from free market innovation. But arguably, innovative apps do not come from the “street” level (developing world markets such as India); the barriers to entry are still limited by financial backing. Never the less, the tools to innovation are increasingly becoming more prevalent for people across the world.