David Pogue: Is the Fear of Change Holding Us Back?


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David Pogue, an American technology and science writer and TV presenter, sat down with the I-Connect007 Editorial Team after his keynote presentation at IPC APEX EXPO to talk about today’s technology, the breakthroughs that have shaped our current landscape, and whether fear of change and innovation is what’s keeping us from the next technological revolution. 

Nolan Johnson: You started off your presentation talking about sensors and how that changed everything. Not so long ago, we watched the whole MEMS market and application-specific design just basically crater and go away based on sensors and smartphones. Could you talk a bit more about that?

David Pogue: I feel like, from the consumer standpoint, just about everything that people love today, and that they think is cool, is coming from the sensors, starting with the first iPhone where Steve Jobs, behind the scenes, would talk about the 35 sensors he crammed in there, from the accelerometer and compass to the gyroscope. To me, that was the success story of the iPhone. It allows it to do all these human things like understanding speech, visuals, text to speech, speech to text, and so on. That led to enormous industries all based on sensors—the internet of things; self-driving cars, trucks, ships, and planes; drones and drone delivery; and robotics. It all came from this notion of better, cheaper, smaller sensors.

Johnson: You basically have a control panel in your smartphone that is loaded with sensors. You can use that innately, or you can connect external sensors through all these smart devices to really expand and open your reach. That is a complete game changer for applications.

Pogue: It really is. Fifteen years ago this month [January], Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone by saying, “Today, we’re going to unveil three radical products, an internet terminal, a telephone, and a music player.” And then he joked, “Of course, it’s not three different products. It’s all this, the iPhone.” He was almost right; it is indeed an internet terminal. That’s what most people use it for most of the time, not so much to make calls. But the third one is, as you say, as a front end for the rest of the universe, for everything that your readers put together.

Every device now has an app, light bulbs have an app, refrigerators have an app, your watch has an app, and the front end is all this little three-and-a-half-inch screen. It’s kind of amazing because, again, there are no physical keys. Typing on glass still isn’t as good as pressing physical keys, but it’s this massive trade-off that, I’ve got to tell you, in 2007, people didn’t think would pay off. People thought that it was stupid. We can’t go from a Blackberry, which has keys, to a device that doesn’t have keys. But it was a trade-off people were willing to make.

Johnson: Some of the financial people in this industry—the bankers, the people watching M&A, the investment people—are commenting that we seem to be entering into a second super cycle. The first super cycle for the electronics industry was commercializing the microprocessing, and that was just gangbusters for 20 years or so. It seems like we’re heading into a second one, and these financial people are claiming it’s sensors, internet of things, and making everything smart; that is the super cycle for this industry. Would you agree?

Pogue: I think we tend to extrapolate, to over-simplify, and to overhype in this industry. I’ve seen it year after year. I’ve been going to the Consumer Electronics Show since I was born, and they’ve been promising the internet-connected complete home every single year I’ve been there, since the ‘80s. The average person still doesn’t have a connected home. There is a tendency to over-project, but I think that the AI advances are making a huge leap in the effectiveness of everything we’re doing on these devices.

There are tens of thousands of examples, but I just had 1,200 old family slides scanned by a scanning service, and every single one of them is blurry in its own way. Some, because he photograph wasn’t good; some, because there was motion blur; and some, because the scanner wasn’t great. There’s an AI app that compares each photo against tens of millions of other photos that it’s looked at. It knows, “That’s a face, someone’s glasses, the Arc de Triomphe, or that’s the Eiffel Tower,” and sharpens it based on all the photos that have ever come before. It creates sharper pictures out of material that you wouldn’t think could be usable. That’s just one example of many where AI is tripling the usefulness of all of this. I would call that, if not part of the next super wave, the super wave.

To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the Real Time with... IPC APEX EXPO 2022 Show & Tell Magazine, click here.

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