12 Technological Forces That Will Shape The Future

How Businesses Can Adapt To Digital Transformation

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Although Float is dedicated to offering superior enterprise mobility services, we also realize that the mobility of devices, people, and data is just one component of a complex, multi-dimensional digital transformation that is taking over business today. Many of these additional dimensions are captured in Kevin Kelly’s new book The Inevitable: Understanding The 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future.

But, these 12 dimensions should not be thought of as separate boxes to deal with in isolation from each other. Instead, they are all mixed, as we explained in our white paper, Intertwingled Technologies: The Keys To The Emerging Enterprise Landscape. I was especially interested in comparing the 12 technological forces identified by a Kelly with the nine clusters of affordances we distinguished in the CHAMPIONS framework in our paper, to see what we missed.

According to Kelly, the 12 technological forces are:

1. Becoming

It finishes nothing as we live in a world of continuous change. Software, hardware, products, services, and even people’s experience endless upgrades, so we are always in a state of becoming where nothing is ever finished. Kelly says we need to embrace this change and be prepared to react to the unexpected. He is an optimist who believes that “things are better today than they were yesterday, although only a little better.”

2. Cognifying 

This made-up word signifies the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and most objects around us. Artificial intelligence is emerging, not from giant standalone computers, “but in the superorganism of 1 billion computer chips known as the net.” Three important breakthroughs have made this possible: cheap parallel computation, “Big Data,” and better algorithms. The rise of intelligent robots–both software bots and physically embodied intelligent machines–is happening exponentially, much faster than most of us realize. With the Internet of Things (IoT), intelligence and conductivity are being baked into every object we encounter in our life.

3. Flowing 

Kelly says the Internet is the world’s largest copy machine because making exact digital copies is easy and involves zero marginal costs. Digital copies of everything we create can then be sent out everyone on the Internet at the same time. Because so much is coming at us we now experience the Internet as a stream into which we dip our toes, so to speak, to experience a small fraction of what is available. Millions of us are constantly monitoring flows of Facebook and Twitter streams. The time now flows rather than being in batch mode or reoccurring schedules. Everything is available all the time, on demand or live. Kelly says, “The union of a zillion streams of information intermingling, flowing into each other, is what we call the cloud.”

4. Screening 

We are in a global transition from being “people of the book” to becoming “people of the screen.” Today, over 5 billion digital screens illuminate our lives, and display manufacturers will produce 3.8 billion additional screens per year. “On a screen, words move, meld into pictures, change color, and perhaps even change meaning… This liquidity is unnerving to any civilization based on text logic,” Kelly argues.

5. Accessing 

Kelly believes that in an urban world, it is more important to have access to items than to own them. We expect things we want to be available in real time, from wherever we are located. This is giving rise to the importance of platforms that manage transactions to bring objects to people whenever they want them. “For a long time, there are two basic ways to organize human work: affirm and the marketplace.” Now there is a third option – platforms, and the availability of almost infinite storage through cloud computing. The dream of quick access to anything we want at the moment is coming true, at least for those living in the developed world.

6. Sharing 

We live in a world of incredible abundance, yet many of the objects we own, such as houses and cars, are only used for small parts of our daily lives. Ownership has given way to the sharing economy. Because of ubiquitous networking, cooperation, collaboration, and collectivism are the new watchwords. Open source and peer production are flourishing. Some management of sharing, such as organizational websites, is necessary, contends Kelly, but “we learned that while top down is needed, not much of it is needed.”

7. Filtering 

We are living in an information explosion. ”Every 12 months we produce 8 million new songs, 2 million new books, 16,000 new films, 30 billion blog posts, 82 billion tweets, 400,000 new products.” Filtering is needed to select the few things we can pay attention to. Filters coupled with artificial intelligence allow for large-scale personalization. Both crowdsourcing and expert curators are used to select the best of what is available because it is impossible to assess everything produced yourself, even in one subject area.

8. Remixing 

Examples of remixing include fan fiction, music sampling, and website mashups. Universal tools for creation are reducing the effort needed to create movies, and everyone can have their own channel on YouTube. Software such as Photosynth grabs thousands of photographs of the same location on the Internet and stitches them together into a highly detailed 3-D model. New artificial intelligence algorithms are allowing us to find things within images and texts, even when they have been remixed.

9. Interacting 

Virtual reality results in immersive experiences where we react to stimuli in the virtual world. Augmented reality gives more data points to process. Devices will increasingly have more senses and will interact in increasingly sophisticated ways with humans. “The tiny camera eyes that now stare back at us for many screens can be trained with additional skills.” The artificial intelligence in our devices will detect our emotions and act accordingly. “The dumbest objects we can imagine today will be vastly improved by outfitting them with sensors and making them interactive.”

MORE: Are you interested in learning more about augmented reality?

10. Tracking 

Self-measurement has become a movement, resulting in “the quantified self.”  Once you have collected enough data on yourself, personal analytics software with AI will provide us with feedback on the state of our health, our achievements, and our mental states. Lifelogging, tracking everything you do 24/7, will allow you to find your own personal baseline–you’s normal–which will be different for each person. This will lead to new scientific methods and change how experiments are done.

11. Questioning 

Because we can’t predict the future, then we need to question everything. We already have difficulty separating fact from fiction because there is so much information on every topic imaginable available on the Internet. The “gap between questions and answers is our ignorance, and it is growing exponentially,” says Kelly. We can expect future technologies such as artificial intelligence, genetic manipulation, and quantum computing to unleash a barrage of new big questions–questions we could have never thought to ask before. In fact, it’s a safe bet we have not asked our biggest questions yet. “Every year we ask the Internet and trillion questions, and every year the search engines give back a trillion answers.” Never stop questioning.

12. Beginning 

We are just at the beginning of these changes, which Kelly believes are “inevitable.” While the specific details may change, he believes that the big trends in information and communications technologies have marched forward and won’t stop unfolding over the next 30 years.

Kevin Kelly gives lots of examples and detail to back up his claims. While I don’t think he is right in his view of the future, businesses are experiencing immense change–a “digital transformation.” How should executives react to this change? Kevin Benedict, an insightful futurist, and blogger says,

“The end goal of digital transformation…is the ability to rapidly act and react to changing data, competitive conditions and strategies fast enough to succeed… In a recent survey of 500 managers, they reported the number one mistake companies are making in digital transformation is moving too slow.  They may have all the information and strategies, but if they are incapable of acting or reacting fast enough to matter, then it is wasted.”

Interested In An Augmented Reality Demo?

Float helps companies move quickly in enacting their own digital transformations, starting with a strategy, followed by design, development, and delivery. We are ready when you are. In the meantime, I recommend Kevin Kelly’s new book as a starting point to plot the changes that are already impacting your company and will continue to do so for decades to come.

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Gary Woodill is a senior analyst with Float, as well as CEO of i5 Research. Gary conducts research and market analyses, as well as assessments and forecasting for emerging technologies. Gary is the co-editor of "Mastering Mobile Learning," author of “The Mobile Learning Edge,” and the co-author of “Training and Collaboration with Virtual Worlds.” He also presents at conferences and is the author of numerous articles and research reports on emerging learning technologies. Gary holds a doctor of education degree from the University of Toronto.

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On July 20, 2016
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