Everywhere you look 1s and 0s are changing the way we live. Now, the Barbican is going high-tech with their ‘Digital Revolution’ exhibition. Eddy Frankel gives 20 eye-opening reasons why London is truly a digital city.
1. WE’RE PREPARED TO SUSTAIN INJURIES FOR OUR TEXTS
A street in London recently experimented with adding padding to lampposts. Not to prevent harm to wayward toddlers but to minimise the pain caused when we, multi-tasking adults, crash into them while texting and walking. Injuries caused by our attempts to stare at a screen while moving our legs are on the rise, perhaps corroborating the findings of a Stanford University professor whose research showed that ‘people who multi-task all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy’. Well, at least we soon might not have to worry so much about filtering out lampposts.
2. THE OLD BILL ARE WEARING DIGI CAMERAS
Slowly but surely our police force is being mechanised and soon all we’ll be left with is a bunch of ultra-powerful, future law-enforcement machines. Yeah, Robocop is happening. For real. Don’t believe us? Well last month, it was announced that the Metropolitan Police Force would be fitted with mini-cameras to record their every move. They say that it’s to help reduce crime rates and make officers accountable, but really, they’re just being given digital eyes. See? Robocop.
3. YOU CAN BUY A DRINK WITH BITCOINS
Still paying for pints with coppers and pound coins? Get out of the Middle Ages, man. The future of money is here, and it’s called bitcoin: a wildly successful online currency that’s now accepted at various London locations. You can use bitcoins for booze at the Pembury Tavern in Hackney, coffees and cakes at the Sawmill café in Stratford and even to buy a home through property company Cai-Capital. If you’ve still got paper money then ditch it pronto: there’s a bitcoin cash machine in Shoreditch, so you can easily digitise your dirty old bank notes.
4. OUR SURGEONS BROADCAST OPERATIONS ONLINE
At the end of May, surgeon Shafi Ahmed of the Royal London Hospital became the first doctor to transmit an operation live when he used Google Glass to film the removal of cancerous tissue from a 78-year-old patient. The procedure was streamed to 13,000 surgical students who were also able to ask Mr Ahmed questions through the display on his Google specs. Rumours that he was browsing the internet, updating his Facebook status and posting pithy comments on Reddit subthreads while operating are as yet unconfirmed.
5. WE’RE ABOUT TO GET INTERNET AS ULTRAFAST AS SOUTH KOREA’S
Waiting impatiently for videos of cats to load may soon be a thing of the past. Why? Because we are about to get the same 4G mobile internet that South Korea has. By the end of the year, you could be illegally downloading ‘Game of Thrones’ episodes twice as fast as the rest of the country can.
6. YOU CAN BUY A 3D YOU
Still looking at photographs in two dimensions? Wake up and replicate the coffee mug. You can now get images of yourself in blummin’ 3D! One option is to have them printed at the iMakr store in Clerkenwell. Or if you’re looking for something more virtual, www.metail. com creates online three-dimensional versions of yourself so that you can ‘try on’ clothes while internet shopping.
7. IT’S BECOME REALLY HARD TO WATCH BANDS PROPERLY
If you want proof that London is truly a digital city, just go to any gig and try to actually watch the band on stage. Anyone who can spot the musicians through the sea of mobile phones held aloft must have the eyes of a hawk. Some performers have finally had enough. London postpunkers Savages even install notices at their gigs asking people to refrain from phone use; and no less a rock god than Johnny Marr has described people who film gigs on their phones as ‘dicks’. Maybe it is rude, but the truth is that Londoners want to capture digital memories of their lives. Is that so wrong?
8. WE HAVE A TECH CITY
Divinia Knowles, COO of Mind Candy, creator of Moshi Monsters ‘There’s an amazing ecosystem here in Tech City [the area around Old Street roundabout which is home to numerous digital companies]. It has just become an absolutely amazing place for start-ups. More and more established companies have started to move here because of Tech City’s reputation. It’s a special place, and has inspired all these tech communities that are springing up over the place such as in Notting Hill, Manchester and Brighton – we’re the poster child for what they could all become.’
9. YOU CAN VISITTHE TATE WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR PC
The winner of this year’s IK Prize at Tate is a group called The Workers. They plan to create robots that will roam through Tate Britain at night, operated via the internet by users at home. It means that a) you get to control robots, which is awesome, and b) you can visit an art gallery without having to change out of your pyjamas.
10. YOU CAN LEARN HOW TO CODE IN A DAY
How are you meant to survive in this digital city if you don’t know your http from your HP? (Hint: one’s a delicious brown condiment, the other one isn’t.) Shoreditch company Decoded offers oneday coding courses so that you can be just like Jonny Lee Miller in ‘Hackers’. In a day! Magic.
11. WE HAVE ELECTRONIC BIKE LOCKS
Even our bike locks are digital, thanks to the clever chaps behind Lock8: a lock that you open and close with an app on your smartphone and which emits a deafening 120-decibel alarm if someone tries to mess with it. Even better than that, you can share your lock code with others to set up a bike-sharing scheme. Yeah, we think that’s a wheely good idea too.
12. WE’RE AN SFX DESTINATION
London has become a hotspot for the world’s best special effects. Just look at Framestore: the Soho SFX company has won Baftas and Oscars galore for its work on films like ‘The Golden Compass’, ‘Superman Returns’ and ‘The Dark Knight’. London is such a special-effects destination that Oscarwinner ‘Gravity’ was shot here specifically to take advantage of our ultra-advanced computer sorcery. Framestore is currently working on upcoming sci-fi epic ‘Jupiter Ascending’.
13. WE HAVE INTERNET ART GALLERIES
Art has outgrown the canvas and taken big steps towards the digital world over the past 20 years. Carroll/Fletcher on Eastcastle Street is one gallery that concentrates on internet and digital art, and has had shows based tweeting, online scammers and the computer software. That’s #art.
14. WE HAVE THE BEST MAP APPS
Remember the days of having to make sure you had your A-Z’ on you at all times, otherwise you might end up in Clapham? Probably not, because actual real-life physical maps are as much a part of the past for the general public as tinned meat and beheadings all thanks to smartphones. But we haven’t stopped at Google Maps: London developers invented Citymapper, which you exactly how to get home on public transport, no matter how drunk you are.
15. WE HAVE CRAPPY PHONES
Get ready for the phrase ‘sorry, I’ll have to call you back, line is shit’ to take on a whole new, and literal, meaning. Research by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found the phones of one in six Londoners are infected with E Coli from human intestines. Which means loads of fiddle with our phones on the bog and get covered in particles of poop. Talk about handed with technology. But that’s how digital Londoners are. We can’t even take a dump without tweeting about it.
16. CANDY CRUSH WAS CREATED HERE (SORRY)
London is a big deal in the videogame world. Not only do we have studios like Mind Candy and Improbable (who are attracting major names in the gaming world), we’re also home to King Digital Entertainment, maker of Candy Crush, which is valued at a cool $7 billion. So now you know who to blame when your girl or boyfriend accuses you of not listening to how their day has been.
17. WE’RE KILLING OFF THE HIGH STREET
This year, London retail footfall fell by a further 1.6 percent on last year. We’re increasingly choosing to shop online instead of in-store. All because we real Londoners know that Oxford Street is in fact the second circle of hell. OUR
18. BINS ARE WATCHING US
Last year, in an effort to optimise advertising, a series of central London recycling bins were loaded with tracking technology. It meant that people walking past with smartphones had their movements logged. They’ve stopped doing it now, so you don’t have to fear bins any more, but the company behind the tech is planning to use it to monitor how busy certain bits of the city are. Sure, it’s creepy, but at least you’ll know which pubs are heaving.
19. WE HAVE DRIVERLESS CARS
At least we do according to Boris Johnson who, at London Technology Week, stated that driverless cars were already a reality in London – they’re parked everywhere. Clever old BoJo was being facetious, but the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association anticipates that driverless cabs could be a reality within 25 years. They’re already annoyed about it.
20. WE USE ROBOTS TO OPERATE ON PEOPLE
Pardeep Kumar, consultant urological surgeon at the Royal Marsden Hospital ‘The Da Vinci Robot is a system that miniaturises a surgeon’s movements. So a surgeon sits at a console with a 3D screen and moves their hands in a 3D space. The machine can pick up those motions and translate them into tiny movements at the end of laparoscopic instruments within the patient. You would only be able to do these procedures by hand through a very large incision in the patient, but this is all done through keyhole surgery. The movements you can mimic at the end of these tiny sticks that are in the body are much more complex than any you could do with traditional keyhole surgery.’
Find out more about the ‘Digital Revolution’ exhibition.