Aged leaders tied down by a mass of techies

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

The Las Vegas Sun has an article about a new business in downtown Las Vegas.  According to the Sun, a bar will open in April with video gaming machines – not slot machines, video gaming, Madden football or Grand Theft Auto.  There is nothing new in the games themselves, except a new level of  commercialization; why not a casino version?  What better way to move from the aging baby boomers pulling handles to a whole new generation wagering on the game of their choice as they fly through cyberspace?

There were two stories about poker, one from England and one from Florida.  In the English story PartyGaming, one of the leading international providers of online poker and other gambling options, has signed deals with three or four major American gaming companies in preparation for the legalization of online gaming in New Jersey, California and Florida.  The Florida story is about a young woman, single mother of two, who has given up her job to play poker for a living in local poker rooms.  Where do you suppose she learned to play poker?  Like the rest of her generation of poker players, online in all probability – it is the only way to learn fast enough and with little or no actual cost of learning.

Everywhere we look there are examples of new technology working its way into the economy and one would suspect, if not replacing the older technology, at least taking significant market share away from it.  We can see it happening, but the exact way it will play out and the long term implications are pretty much hidden from us.  The spokesman for the technology and their supporters are quick to predict a total takeover in very short order, but the rest of us are not so sure, especially those of us who are late adapters. So we wait and buy in much later and at a much higher cost; we are the ones buying houses in 2006 and 2007, but stocks when the NASDAQ hit 14,000 – not only do we pay more, we often lose completely because by the time we see and think we understand the trend, it has changed – oops!

For me this is still part of trying to process the events in Egypt – how did it happen that informal, single messages between individuals results in millions of people acting as one. What causing anything to suddenly become “something?”  The phenomenon of “going viral” on the internet is much like what happened in Egypt. What causes a video to go viral?  What are the underlying basics that lead to all young men walking around trying to hold their pants up with one hand and portray cool with the other;  that puts a cell phone in every hand, hands now freed from holding the old fashion messy newspaper because the owner of the hands gets its news from some other technological application ?  There a thousands of examples of things that went from being new and unusual to something that seemingly every person on the planet does, has or uses.  What makes that happen?  Do we really just follow the sent of the ant that went there before us?

Poker was just a game 10 years ago, old men played it, smoked, grumbled and bet. Today young people learn to play it online, they are faster and better than previous generations; those young players have pushed the old men aside and are taking over.  Just think about it – a single mother in her 20s supporters her children playing poker in Florida.  I don’t know that the video game guy will start any trends, but I don’t know that he won’t – certainly those games are moving from the conventional formats onto the world of “apps” and if casinos could find a way to make some form of collective and competitive wagering opportunity from the games, in theory it could challenge slot machines.  At this point I am looking everywhere for the next “bring down the regime” technology or application.

I guess I am still stunned by the role social media played in Egypt; one of the commentaries on the army commanders analyzed them by their familiarity with tweeting.  The head general, 76 years old, apparently does use a cell phone, but only to call his friends and associates not to plan revolutions or prevent them either.  I can identify with him, Mubarak and all of the other old men in the world who cannot adapt, we are like poor old Gulliver tied down by the strings of our own inabilities and unwillingness to change, held and pulled a mass of young, hip and technology savvy people.


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February 2011
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