People who champion a great new idea tend to over-estimate how quickly they can bring about change in the short term, and everyone else tends to under-estimate just how significant this change will be in the long term. Sociologists and economists graph this in the shape of an “S” curve, and this News article explores how US pop star Justin Bieber is riding his Segway PT along this curve, and how everyone else is going to be following him sooner than they think.
Justin Bieber and his band just can’t keep off their Segway PTs, according to media reports. For example, the musicians can be seen gliding around back-stage during a recent world tour in this footage from the Extended version of the Never Say Never movie – destined to find its way into many homes with teenagers. Last year a video of Bieber being chased by fans as he tries to escape on his PT “went viral” and became one of the most-watched YouTube clips of the year. Shortly after Whoopie Goldberg was staging a “Segway Race” between the young star and Elizabeth Hasselbeth around the set of her talk-show – we’ve linked to both clips at the end of a previous News article about a much more serious endeavour.
Bieber is just one of many young stars who are being seen out and about enjoying life on their Segway PTs. This illustrates an important cultural shift about how the Segway PT is being perceived. While there is still a small but vocal core of (mostly) older people who still don’t “get” the Segway PT (it is apparent in the language of the first article linked to above, for example), it is Segway New Zealand’s experience that just about every young person in the country intrinsically thinks the Segway PT is “cool.” For them, they know they’ll be using Segway PTs as a part of their daily lives in their own futures, just as Bieber uses one today. And that going places on a Segway PT is a lot more attractive than taking the bus.
When mobile phones appeared in New Zealand in the late-80’s, early adopters where first stared at, then jeered at by many. Hearing passers-by yelling “Yuppy!” was just the least-rude of the phrases commonly used. Yet today just about everyone – including those very people who used to do the name calling – has a mobile phone. In fact, many people have two.
It is not the phone that has changed over time, but the attitudes held by people.
Think about just how quickly this has happened. Michael Douglas’ character Gordon Gecko in the movie Wall Street discovered the world he had known has changed significantly by the time he emerged from jail in Wall Street II, 20 years later.
We still use a mobile phone to make calls in the exact same way we did 20 years ago. We still send text messages in the exact the same way we were since the first Bellsouth (now Vodafone) 2G network was launched in New Zealand in the early 1990s. It took somewhere between 10 and 15 years for the mobile phone to become “normalised” in the wider public mind, with many older people being the slowest to adopt. Tradesmen and small business owners of all ages were particularly strong early adopters in this country.
In 2011, in the minds of people under 30 there have always been mobile phones, just as there have always be Segway PTs for todays teenagers.
Segway New Zealand is seeing the same transition occur that occurred about attitudes towards mobile phones already occurring towards the Segway PT. Many early PT owners remember being stared at, and even jeered at by some (in the writers experience whenever someone yelled “Geek!” or “Lazy!” it seemed to reveal quite a lot about the yeller’s own insecurities).
Today the jeers are long gone, and in New Zealand’s larger cities it is not unusual to see several Segway PTs glide by every day: mobility impaired persons enjoying life with far more freedom than a mobility scooter ever offered, commuters leaving cars behind and escaping cramped and inconvenient public transport, officers on patrol enhancing public safety, fast food and documents being delivered door-to-door, and tourists enjoying our unique sights.
Again, as with mobile phones, trades and small businesses have been strong early adopters of Segway PTs in their bid to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and deliver better services to their customers.
The Segway PT does today exactly what it did when first launched almost a decade ago. The Segway PT hasn’t changed, but the minds of people have. Our observation is this transition is happening surprisingly quickly. And we’re not surprised about this at all.