Most of the time, predictions we make about the future are obvious conclusions based on the trajectory of what’s already happened. But some forecasters know where to look to find the really mind-blowing stuff. Kevin Kelly is one such oracle.
As the founding editor of Wired magazine, author of numerous books ranging from technology to science fiction, and Hackers’ Conference co-founder (to name a scant few of his credentials), Kevin has always had his finger on the pulse of where our inventions are taking us. He joins us at The Art of Charm to talk about his latest book, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, and what we can expect from a tomorrow that’s sooner than we probably think. Enjoy!
“I look for the ways technology wants to be used,” says Kevin, “in the sense that it’s not being supervised. How criminals and outlaws use it. How kids use it. How the street uses it. And that gives you a little bit more hint of its natural tendencies. It’s these unsupervised ways that reveal the sort of underlying leaning that these technologies have. And they all have leanings — they’re biased in certain directions. What I’m looking for is the biases.”
Kevin uses the Internet as an example. Everything that touches the Internet is copied ad infinitum — so we could say the Internet’s bias is to copy. The music industry has historically gone against the grain of this bias by trying to resist it — like taking grandmothers to court for file sharing — rather than trying to work with its inevitability. A better strategy is to assume everything is being copied, and use it as an advantage — take the potential reach of viral videos, for instance. With an understanding of how people will use the technology at hand, a savvy music industry marketer can coast the publicity from a good viral video campaign into an almost endless supply of free advertising.
Kevin considers it his job to tap into these biases and get a better look at how they affect the future’s long course — and he concedes that he’s not always right. Like financial speculation, predicting the future of tech isn’t a sure thing. But Kevin does tend to be on the right track even if his time table doesn’t turn out to be accurate.
He points out that he was pretty sure VR (virtual reality) would be a big deal…back in 1989. All the technology was there — the goggles, the glove, and capacity for social interaction. But the hitch that kept it from emerging on a meaningful level was purely financial.
“The problem was it was the equivalent of one million dollars today to set it up,” says Kevin. “It was just way too expensive. The head tracking, and all that technology [cost] hundreds of thousands of dollars. Today, it’s a three dollar chip in your phone…that’s why we have VR now. They took all these technologies which are now chips in your phone and put them into the headset. And now we can have commodity consumer-oriented VR. But I thought it was going to take only five years in ’89 — so I was totally wrong in that sense.”
But now that it’s 2016 and we’re on the cusp of VR finally becoming a household technology, Kevin says we should be prepared for some pretty unexpected lessons and fundamental reorganization of everything from the Internet to the economy and the nature of future business.
“VR is the biggest brain tool that we have. And we’re going to discover things about ourselves through virtual reality by using it and making it better. The thing I like to emphasize about VR — the reason why I think it’s so important — is that what you get inside of VR is an experience. When you take it off and you come back out and you recollect what happened, you don’t remember seeing things. You remember feeling them — experiencing them.
“And the real typical demo for VR for first-timers is you put the goggles on and then they show you in a room, and then they drop off half of the room right in front of you. You’re now standing on a ledge that goes a mile down. Your brain knows that you’re just standing in a room. But your body — your other, kind of lower brain — is in panic! And your legs are shaking and you’re backing up, thinking, ‘I’m going to die.'”
It’s powerful. And Kevin sees VR’s ability to create such vivid experiences as laying the groundwork for the Internet to evolve from a repository of information to an Internet that connects people by these experiences.
“Experiences are one of the few things that we can’t manufacture in a commodity way — making it cheaper and cheaper. So experiences are things that we’re going to be paying more and more for. We’re going to move our economy to an experience economy and this is where the jobs will be. If you want something that’s going to be manufactured, you give it to the robots. It’s a commodity. But experiences are very, very human.”
Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm to learn more about what Kevin believes will be the biggest companies in 20 years, how a society transformed by virtual reality will feel about real reality, what Kevin can discern from the so-called “white space” between disparate concepts, what increasingly complex artificial intelligence (or, as Kevin likes to call it, “artificial smartness”) has in store for us, how mutual surveillance might curtail privacy asymmetry between citizens and larger data collectors like corporations and governments, how the constant escalation of technology makes us all perpetual newbies (and why that’s okay), and lots more.
THANKS, KEVIN KELLY!
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AJ Harbinger - author of 1166 posts on The Art of Charm
AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality.
Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.
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