I heard BT's futurologist Ian Pearson describing a "trip to the future" at a conference in Rome a few days ago. Here are my running notes. "Tech is 80 or 90% predictable on a 10-years horizon", he said. The number of new life-changing technologies increases exponentially every 5 years (the dates are for mass market penetration):
- 1990-95s: PCs, office networks, MS Office, satellite TV, filofax, Gameboy
- 1995-2000s: Mobile phones, home PCs, office Internet, e-mail, laptops, Playstation, camcorders, Amazon.com
- 2000-05s: Home Internet, digital cameras, wireless LANs, PDAs, chat rooms, search engines, e-commerce, Expedia, SMS, instant messaging
- 2005-10s: Satnav, Blackberry, broadband, iPods, memory stick, HD video recording, eBay, home shopping, Skype, online multi-player games, virtual environments, Google maps, blogs, hard drive recorders, music downloads
- 2010-15s: HDTV, RFID, augmented reality, virtual reality, dual appearance, electronic jewelry, digital bubbles, smart make-up, smart clothes, smart buildings, digital paper, life-on-a-stick, personal black box, robotics, voice recognition, active skin, ...
The Web is picking up speed, its growth is exponential. Why is it different from 2000? Because we have reached critical mass: 30-40-50 percent of the population goes online every day. What does it mean to companies? Functional recomposition of industries and commerce using the Internet. In the 1990s: convergence of telecoms and computers. Today convergence between four new techs (nano, bio, info, cognitive -- the ability to link to our nervous system). Convergence means a lot of new green fields; very big markets are at the boundaries where convergent industries intersect; new business models/new kinds of businesses:
- very blurred boundaries
- porous companies (semi-permeable membranes instead of walls)
- highly distributed companies
- individual knowledge workers using the web to group together into virtual entreprises
Once we can do everything, we will have to re-evaluate what we really want to do. He suggests a different reading of Maslow's hierarchy of needs (see also this previous post), saying that the value is now in the top layers (self-actualisation, esteem, social - see image). "Tech helps people to do more, interact more, have more fun, be more, and feel better about themselves".
We can produce in 15 years' time a virtual world that's so realistic that you can't tell if you're in real life or in that world. Link nervous system, record a handshake or an orgasm and replay it. Education via time travel (any time period, any weather, no tourists, no erosion -- take your kids back to Stonehenge; full sensory environments will allow even more).
Duality, a whole new market, where the virtual world and everything you can do on the internet are overlayed into the real world. People and buildings can emit an interactive digital aura (wireless LAN). Artificial intelligence and productivity: today: human big, machine small; tomorrow: we can make machines up to a million times smarter than a human being. Information economy will largely move into the machine world. People will have access to machine enhancements of their creativity. Most of the "male" jobs of today will be automated, taken over by artificial intelligence. In the "care age", that will follow the "information age", this will lead to a feminization of work.