I was recently asked to present a 6 minute talk at the Moxie Sessions about the future of the Internet.
Specifically, I was asked: What will the next 25 years of the Internet hold for our favourite perky nation at the edge of the world? Can we stand up against the mega-trends, or will we drown in a sea of animated cat gifs? What difference is the Internet going to make to our lives?
I’m all about focusing on the “difference” it can make – how can it be more useful, make lives easier, happier, simpler. My personal love of the digital age is its ability to enable & empower everyday people. We can be disruptors from our bedrooms. We can create and innovate faster and impact people’s lives by thinking about how we can make life easier.
So, perhaps if we take a moment to think back 25 years, then we can see what’s still left to innovate….
In 1989 I was 11. My parents drove cars with no technology, not even fuel injection. Dad had a cellphone – a very large “brick” that had a travel carry case. We had a black and white TV, plus a larger TV in the lounge. We had three TV channels, though that was pretty lucky because half of the country still only had two. We had a phone number 479 5284. Our friends called and asked permission from our parents to hang out. We went to the movies, we swam in the sea, we rode our bikes, we made huts, and we did our homework with paper and pencils….though I could use Mum’s type writer if I was careful not to muck up the ribbon. Friends of ours had a CD player, though that was pretty flash and the school had one of those giant laser players, though no one knew what it could do.
Today, I’m the step-mum of an 11 year old girl. She takes an iPad to school. She has an email address. All her homework is done online, submitted virtually to the teacher – she can see how she ranks online against other kids. She can play math games to get better, and compete against the other kids online. We don’t have a CD player…in fact we turfed them all. Our house is wired up with speakers in the roof in every room of the house – the kids can think of a song, then play it – just by picking up any one of the many devices in the house, all which have the music app on them. They sing a song at their phone if they can’t think of the artist, and it remembers it for them.
For fun, they make home made videos with the iPads and then play it for us. They can order their lunches in advance, to be delivered to school.
Some things stay the same…kids still fight, weirdo’s still lurk and parents still nag. But boy we’ve leapt forward.
Looking forward, I can’t help but feel it is evolution not revolution. The last 25 years kind of crept up on us, it snowballed and now it’s in leaps and bounds.
Wearable technology today is about monitoring our fitness, for example, can be taken to the next level where it’s health focused. Perhaps taking blood tests and constantly monitoring our well-being and requirements. An automated top-up of what we might be deficient in. Think of this in the hospital environment, if we can be auto monitored and controlled, we can be cared for remotely, and robotically. Virtual doctors visits – no more ‘doing rounds’ – he/she can check in with you via a monitor, to add that human touch.
Wearable tech could also be about improving our ability to connect with each other in our increasingly multi-cultural society. Ear implants that can translate languages….perhaps even as your own personal concierge. Sounds a bit like next generation Suri.
Suri today has a sense of humour…try telling her that you love her and wait for the response. But computers with feelings is a real possibility – after all, they’re programmed by people with feelings. If you saw the movie HER recently you may have got a taste for it, the ability for a computer to have a personality – but also evolve itself as it learns more….it’s a compelling and not entirely far-fetched idea.
Maybe she can help you with the choices you make. After all the common reason for breaking ‘new years resolutions’ is not having the support. People with trainers at the gym do better than those relying on self-motivation. What if our trainers needn’t be there? What if you could use the Suri in your ear to help keep you on track – and of course your health monitor to know what’s actually impacting your body (not just burning calories). Avoid injuries.
All these advancements mean we’ll be healthier and living longer. Meaning we’ll be putting even more strain on our resources. If our intake / consumption can be monitored, it can be controlled or rationed – food allocations become a real possibility. Of course, you could always 3D print it. Taste, smell, colour are all able to be broken down digitally, and that means you could create something from virtually nothing, as long as you have the right coordinates and materials. This one blows my mind – having seen a new smart 3D printer recently that enables women to print their own make up, the mind boggles over what is possible here.
Which leads me to your fridge and pantry. Sure we have online shopping now, but having to even build that list and make the order is a pain-in-the-ass, time to let your technology coordinate with your list and keep you stocked up (within the quotas you’re allowed). Drone delivery anyone?
Oh why not just drive yourself to the shops? Well, let’s be honest, driving has lost a bit of it’s charm. It’s become even more of a privilege to own or self drive a car. The anti-crash technology that has made our cars safer today has now evolved to network with the road and your destination to get you there safely…on auto pilot.
The good news is that crime of today is down, the eyes in the sky have helped reduce the number of ‘visible’ crimes…meaning Cyber crime is going to exponentially increase. With that our laws, our policing units, how we interact with each other – all need to be radically smartened up to get to grips with the reality of the new world order. Good luck with that on a global scale – because borders have changed somewhat. Global government, perhaps?
The jobs we have today are going to be the biggest change, our ability to create change and make things happen is going to be a skillset in it’s own – innovation will come from those who can showcase it. All these ‘digital natives’ will become the standard. Programming, design skills, but also ability to connect with others.
In summary, I’m excited by the evolution and what opportunities it will afford us as a nation, planet and human beings. But I’m also cautious. Doomsday followers take note, if the planet spins on it’s axis or we lose our ability to use the Internet via some massive catastrophe, our reliance will render us rather useless. Just try going without your phone for a day to get what I mean.
So whilst we’ll have evolved our abilities, we must ensure that our kids – like ours do – enjoy the ability to disconnect if they wish. Build forts, run around, go camping, do a sing-along – all the lo-fi stuff that 25 years ago and 25 years forward should still be relevant. Because no matter how useful the internet is and how much it impacts our ability to get stuff done faster, our ability to connect with each other IRL will be still core to our humanness.
Or at least that’s my prediction.