Much of what will happen in the next thirty years is inevitable, driven by technological trends that are already in motion. In this fascinating, provocative new book, Kevin Kelly provides an optimistic road map for the future, showing how the coming changes in our lives—from virtual reality in the home to an on-demand economy to artificial intelligence embedded in everything we manufacture—can be understood as the result of a few long-term, accelerating forces.
Force #1 Becoming
Right now, today is the best time to start and invent something. There has never been a better time in history. Today is the best opportunity with more openings, lower barriers and higher benefit/risk rations, better returns and overall greater upside. Right now, this minute.
“You are not late. Today truly is a wide-open frontier. We’re all becoming. It’s the best time ever in human history to begin with.”
Force #2 Congifying
Robots are not our enemies. We need to let them take over to some extent. In many areas of our lives, they’ll do the jobs we’ve been doing and do them much better than we can. They’ll even do the jobs we can’t risk doing at all. And they’ll help us discover new jobs for ourselves and expand who we are. They’ll let us focus on becoming more human than we were before.
Force #3 Flowing
With the rise of digital media, we’ve only started following. So much more of our routines remain to be liquefied but streamed they’ll be. The natural response to flow – receiving a clip, a song, a text from someone – is not just to consume it but to act upon it. That’s how we maximize the flowing and continue its flow.
Force #4 Screening
Chips are becoming tiny, screens so thin and cheap that in the coming years, many consumer goods, from shoes to cans of soup, will contain a small silver of dim intelligence. Screens will be the tool we use to interact with this ubiquitous congnification. We’ll want to watch them. But more important, our screens will also watch us.
“Screens will be our mirrors, the wells into which we look to find out about ourselves. Not to see our faces but ourselves.”
Already billions use portable screens to record their patterns and what they see. The result of constant self-tracking is an impeccable memory of their lives and one that no one can provide. The screens have become part of our identity.
Force #5 Accessing
The universe is so smart you don’t have to wait a minute for your ride. The car magically shows up because it knows your schedule and plan accordingly. You’re trying to save money, so it’ll even double up with others on your way to work. The digital era is free to race ahead and explore the unknown. Accessibility rather than ownership keeps us fragile and fresh, ready for whatever is next.
Force #6 Sharing
We’ve been sharing for decades – from our successes to more recently our stream of photos, videos and tweets. The collaboration is open. We share workplaces, emails, ideas, not just the end product. In fact, even science has picked up this idea.
“When an experiment doesn’t work, scientists are required to share their negative results. There’s no turning the sharing off for long. Even the silence will be hard.”
Force #7 Filtering
Google doesn’t make us dumber. Rather we need to surf the web to stay alert and be agile. Our Brains were not evolved to deal with massive encyclopedias, and so we have to rely on our machines to interface with it. We need a real-time system of filters upon filters in order to function in the explosion of options we’ve created.
Force #8 Remixing
Remixing – the reuse of existing pieces – plays havoc with intellectual property. Regardless, the entire economy is tipping away from atoms and towards bits. It’s moving away from ownership and towards access. It’s tilting away from the value of copies and towards the value of the network. It’s heading towards the inevitability of constant, relentless and increasing remixing.
“Law will be slow to follow, but they’ll follow.”
Force #9 Interacting
Your retina is your password. Your digital identity is you. All tools that VR is exploiting, all the ways it’s capturing your moments so that you can be transported into another realm and believe you were there. Degrees of interactions are leapfrogging and will continue to do so. But high interaction comes at a cost. Interacting demands coordination, experience and education.
“In the coming decades, anything that’s not intensely interactive will be considered broken.”
Force #10 Tracking
The world is manufacturing billions of sensors every year. Spread around the world, embedded in our cars, fridges, speakers and draped over our bodies and watching us at home, on public streets and workplaces. These web sensors will generate million bytes of data in the next decade. Tracked, parsed and congnified by ubiquitous AI, this vast ocean of data will be molded into novel products and innovative services. We’ll be astounded by what’s possible by a new level of tracking ourselves.
Force #11 Questioning
Despite billions of searches every year, we’re just starting to get good at giving great answers, Siri speaks back to you with an answer when you ask her. Very soon, we’ll live in a world where we can ask the cloud, any question at all. Why is the sky blue? Will the universe keep expanding forever? Yet, there’s an asymmetry in the work needed to generate a good answer versus a good question. Answers become cheap and questions become valuable. What makes a perfect question? The best questions are not the ones that lead to answers because they are worth a million good answers.
“Computers are useless. They only give you answers.” – Pablo Picasso
Force #12 Beginning
The beginning has already begun. The direction of our large-scale change is clear and unmistakable. In the next three decades, our new supernetwork will see an increased flowing, sharing, tracking, accessing, interacting, screening, remixing, filtering, congnifying, questioning, and becoming. The beginning we’re seeing, of course, is just the beginning.