Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future
Intelligent robots replacing human workers. Billboard advertisements that adapt in real time, targeting their onlookers. The disappearance of jobs, ownership and privacy. The emergence of ubiquitous surveillance. Virtual reality.
This is a vision of a future that most people find disturbing. It’s the stuff of science fiction, to be avoided at all costs lest our way of life as we know it disappears at the ‘hands’ of Artificial Intelligence.
But Kevin Kelly, for one, welcomes our future robot overlords.
In his latest book ‘The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future’, the veteran technology writer and a founding executive editor of Wired magazine, presents a view of the future in which technological advancement is not only positive, but inevitable.
According to Kelly, the forces shaping our future are not inevitable in the sense that they are ‘preordained’ or irrefutable. Rather, they are inevitable because: a) They’re already happening, have been ‘happening’ for more than thirty years, and will keep happening; and b) They are fundamentally driven by the underlying dynamics of technology itself, determined by maths and physics.
In the author’s own words, “There is bias in the nature of technology that tilts it in certain directions and not others. All things being equal, the physics and mathematics that rule the dynamics of technology tend to favor certain behaviors…The kind of inevitability I am speaking of in the digital realm is the result of momentum. The momentum of an ongoing technological shift.’
Technological change will continue to march on, whether we like it or not. But if we embrace this fact, uncover the roots of change and work with them instead of against them, we can make the best of what technology has to offer. Or so says Kelly.
In this book, Kelly identifies the roots of change and uncovers their amplifying effect on the following forces: Becoming, Cognifying, Flowing, Screening, Accessing, Sharing, Filtering, Remixing, Interacting, Tracking, Questioning, and Beginning.
These forces form the trajectory of human progress – and the chapters of Kelly’s book. In each chapter he unpacks each force, discusses its implications and in the process builds a vision of ‘life with technology’ that is brilliant, grand and highly optimistic.
Kelly’s future scenarios are equally bright-eyed. In his list of goodies to anticipate, there is “Cognified Laundry—Clothes that tell the washing machines how they want to be washed.” And then, with only a vanishing trace of irony, he adds, “Cognified Knitting—Who Knows? But it will come!” Kelly’s future transcends the inevitable digital dreams; he is open to inter-stellar interference. For him, “AI could just as well stand for ‘alien intelligence.’”
The future will bring with it even more screens, tracking, and lack of privacy. In the book he outlines twelve trends that will forever change the ways in which we work, learn and communicate:
1. Becoming: Moving from fixed products to always upgrading services and subscriptions
2. Cognifying: Making everything much smarter using cheap powerful AI that we get from the cloud
3. Flowing: Depending on unstoppable streams in real-time for everything
4. Screening: Turning all surfaces into screens
5. Accessing: Shifting society from one where we own assets, to one where instead we will have access to services at all times.
6. Sharing: Collaboration at mass-scale. Kelly writes, “On my imaginary Sharing Meter Index we are still at 2 out of 10.”
7. Filtering: Harnessing intense personalisation in order to anticipate our desires
8. Remixing: Unbundling existing products into their most primitive parts and then recombine in all possible ways
9. Interacting: Immersing ourselves inside our computers to maximise their engagement
10. Tracking: Employing total surveillance for the benefit of citizens and consumers
11. Questioning: Promoting good questions are far more valuable than good answers
12. Beginning: Constructing a planetary system connecting all humans and machines into a global matrix
Author : Kevin Kelly
Publisher : Viking Press
Pages : 336