Ubiquitous computing refers to having some cool computing gadget available for use whenever and wherever you are. The iPad is a pretty robust manifestation of ubiquitous computing… perhaps too robust. CEO and consultant Peter Bregman blogs at Harvard Business Review about why he took his iPad back.

The brilliance of the iPad is that it’s the anytime-anywhere computer. On the subway. In the hall waiting for the elevator. In a car on the way to the airport. Any free moment becomes a potential iPad moment.

…So why is this a problem? It sounds like I was super-productive. Every extra minute, I was either producing or consuming.

But something — more than just sleep, though that’s critical too — is lost in the busyness. Something too valuable to lose.

Boredom.

Being bored is a precious thing, a state of mind we should pursue. Once boredom sets in, our minds begin to wander, looking for something exciting, something interesting to land on. And that’s where creativity arises [Peter Bregman, “Why I Returned My iPad,” Harvard Business Review: View Magazine, 2010.06.16].

I might quibble with the us of the word boredom here, but I dig Bregman’s overarching point, that we need periods when our brains are not engaged by tasks, when the ubiquitous computing device we all get for free — our brains — aren’t locked in input-output functions and can dedicate their immense processing power to the unpredictable puzzles and brainstorms that might arise from our own creativity. (Ironic that I’m saying this while blogging and sifting through two dozen tabs on my browser.)

Yes, it is cool to be able to compute, to search Google, to follow the news, to watch movies, to pound out blog posts anywhere, anytime, from a wireless magic slate. But do you want to? And what price will you pay, not just from your pocket, but from your creative well-being?

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