The future..... It is worth taking a minute to think about thinking about the future. We can only really think about the future based on our own experience – so mostly future predictions are ‘the present, a little bit better’. And that is usually what the future is – gradual evolution. Our brains are not geared up to process fundamental change – so we usually underestimate change in the long term.
But things get twice as fast and half as big every two years. This was a big deal in 1965 when Gordon Moore first observed it and predicted that it would continue. Now stuff is very fast and very small, and it means that everything can connect, process and communicate, not just computers
Connections are all important - since the internet was invented, it has grown to a point where it has roughly the same number of computers connected as there are cells in the human brain, and about the same number of links as there are synapses, or connections. The cells and synapses in our brains is taken as a proxy for intelligence – it is basically processing power. So sinceSir Tim Berners-Lee wrote the worldwide web in 1991, the internet has developed roughly the intelligence of one person. Now it isn’t just computers that connect, so the number of synapses will grow exponentially. By 2040, the internet will have the brainpower of 4 billion people. We’ll see this brainpower used first in semantic intelligence and natural language processing – meaning that the internet will seem less like the connecter and more like the computer. But one with infinite power.
And if devices are just screens that look into the internet, then everything becomes a window. The entertainment consoles that we saw earlier, of course, but also the bin that scans your kitchen rubbish and puts replacements in your basket, the toilet that monitors for early signs of illness, the contact lens that adds an internet augmented layer to your vision. The motion sensors that input visual data, the near-field sensors that take care of payments in shops, the personal heating and air-con settings that let your surroundings react to your personal preferences. And at a macro level, the city that responds to you .
The bit that excites us is fast, free, always-on connections for our phones and laptops – that’s not a future thing: Japan and South Korea have it already. In Finland it is a basic human right. Cloud cities take this to the next level – climate control, transport, money, surroundings personalised and run by near-field technology connecting to the cloud. Songdo in South Korea is being built on these principles
So what does this mean for us and how we relate to the internet? We need to remember that it is a way of organising and structuring information. To have more chance of unlocking its potential, we need to think of it in terms of other systems for structuring information. For example, the alphabet. We haven’t worried about relying on the alphabet to store our information for the last 1500 years. And we don’t use the alphabet as an advertising medium. Well, we do, obviously – copy is written in words, ideas are created and sold in words. But it is something so fundamental that it goes on in the background. If we think of technology in terms of media channels our frame of reference is too narrow
Lots of questions, but two main points: All of these actions create information. Information is data. Data consumes attention, and attention is finite. Attention will become an increasingly scarce resource. Brands that want to maintain relationships with people need to earn attention All these actions create media. Media is data. Basic economics tells us that virtually infinite media will be available virtually free. Brands that want to purchase media will be able to do so virtually free