Full circle from one laptop to rule them all to specialized function specific devices

For about 25 years my digital life was wrapped tightly around whatever personal laptop I had. Since for most of that time I worked as a remote consultant (except for gigs at Singapore-based Ola Search, Google in Mountain View, and currently at Capital One in Urbana, Illinois) my personal laptop also covered work activities. There was something close and comforting about having one digital device that I relied on.

Digital life is very different now. Because of concerns about ‘always being online’ and not paying enough attention to the non-digital world, I favor just wearing an Apple Watch and leaving my iPhone at home. The Apple Watch is just adequate enough for phone calls, messaging, and on rare occasions email and is not anything I spend any real time paying attention to. I can spend the good part of a  day shopping, walking in a park, eating out, or perusing books in a library and just spend a few minutes paying attention to my watch. A huge improvement to cellphone addiction!

For work, I have dedicated secure devices for getting my work done - the definition of purpose-specific.

For home use, I have a powerful GPU laptop from System76 that I only use for machine learning and experiments I am doing fusing ‘classic’ symbolic AI with functional components that are just wrappers for deep learning models.

Also for home use I have a MacBook that is primarily used for long writing sessions when I am working on a book project. Example code for my books tends to be short and pendantic so that development lives on the MacBook also.

I depend on my iPhone when I travel to stay organized and to have local copies of required digital assets, including on-device cached Netflix movies, Audible audio books, and Kindle books.

Lastly, the device that I spend more time on than any other (except for work devices) is my iPad on which I do close to 100% of my web browsing, almost all of my reading, enjoying entertainment, and lots of light weight writing like this blog post and editing and small additions to my current book project.

If I count all cloud-based compute infrastructure for work as one huge virtual device, the count for the digital devices I use every week weighs in at eight devices. When I retire from my job at Capital One later this spring that device count falls to five devices - still really different than the old days of having one laptop for everything.

Looking ahead to the future, perhaps only 5 or 10 years from now, I expect device profiles used by typical consumers to change a lot - mostly being one personal device that is always with you and then many different peripheral and possibly compute devices in your living and working environments that are shared with other people. I think there are three possibilities for what the one personal device may be:

  1. A smartphone 
  2. Something like an Apple Watch
  3. Something like a one-ear only AirPod like device

Whatever the profile is for your personal digital device, it will securely be connected to all shared devices (e.g., smart TVs, shared keyboards and monitors, shared tablets of all sizes, smart cars, home entertainment centers, the cell phone network infrastructure, point of sale devices in stores, etc.).

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