The Conversation: Nick Bilton Explains the Future

Author Nick Bilton tells Diane Sawyer about his new book on the digital world.

ByABC News
September 7, 2010, 12:07 PM

Sept. 7, 2010— -- "I live in the future, and here's how it works."

So says author and New York Times technology reporter Nick Bilton in a new book set for release Sept. 14. Bilton documents the pervasive and growing influence of the internet and technology in our daily lives.

Addressing the fear, popular in recent months, that the web could actually make people dumber by reducing attention spans, Bilton argues that people have long raised warning signs about the cutting edge that, in retrospect, look ridiculous.

"There's just so much history that says that we've been through this path before," said Bilton, pointing to several examples. When train travel was in the vanguard, some respected scientists raised concerns that human bodies would literally explode if a train traveled faster than 20 mph. Similarly, people feared that the advent of the phonograph would eliminate the need to learn to read.

Bilton also looks to the porn industry as a glimpse of the future of pay media on the web. Just as pornagraphers lead the way with film, television, and VHS tapes, they've pushed web technology and are now trying to leverage that content into viable businesses, with mixed results.

He also talks about a vision of the future of the Internet -- a hyper-personalized media experience that caters news, entertainment, and information to an individual's own needs and experiences.

"If you and I make a Google search about a pizza restaurant in New York, we're going to get completely different results in five years," Bilton said, "because it's going to factor in our social networks, and where we live, and where we've been, and the time of day."

As you might expect, Bilton's new book is far more than ink-on-paper. At the top of every chapter, he includes a "QR Code" -- a type of barcode readable by cell phones that links readers to videos, graphics, and even a way to comment on the chapter.

Today on The Conversation, Bilton spoke with Diane Sawyer about his book, "I Live in the Future & Here's How It Works." We hope you'll watch.

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