There is nothing more fun than thinking about how tech trends and humanity are colliding and there is no better time to write about it than the beginning of a new year. There are lots of things to be excited about, but here are a few of the trends that I see colliding in 2013 and what might happen when they do …
The optimized self
Colliding trends: 1) The cost of collecting, storing, and analyzing big data is dropping; 2) The desire to live smarter and healthier is going up.
New trend: The optimized self. The Nike Fuel Band is an example of the emerging man-machine interface that will allow us to continuously collect biometric data that will enable healthier habits, early warning signs of trouble, and optimized human health. We will see continuous feedback and data-fed training programs for optimizing sleep, eating, and every other life function.
We will increasingly turn healthy living into a fun competition with daily objectives and rewards from brands. Huge sponsorship opportunities.
Facebook Financial Fatigue
Colliding trends: 1) Facebook faces unrelenting shareholder pressure to meet quarterly financial goals; 2) Consumers weary of new ad schemes
New trend: Facebook Fatigue. Didn’t you think the latest round of announcements, apologies and counter-announcements by Facebook-owned Instagram were bizarre?
This is a signal that Facebook will be aggressively pushing the limits of our tolerance for monetization schemes. As I wrote earlier this year, the most disruptive event in the development of the social web was the Facebook IPO. This is a company that now has to deliver the goods to shareholders every quarter, without fail, without end. And the only way to do this is to draw more money out of me and you.
I believe this will take the form of a constant experimentation with monetization models … some intrusive, some helpful … but at some point they will risk fatiguing users with the constant changes and increasingly prevalent sponsored posts from advertisers. Will there be a crunch point that opens the door for a more-user-friendly competitor?
Social learning creates crisis for traditional universities
Colliding trends: 1) Unaffordable college tuition; 2) Highly-endowed universities offering free online classes
New trend: Traditional universities in crisis. On top of ridiculous tuition costs, we are at a tipping point where many young people are wondering about the relevance of a college degree in many professions.
Coursera, a start-up online education company, has enrolled 1.35 million students in its free online courses since it began in early 2012. In just a few months it added 33 partner universities, including Brown, Columbia, and Weslyan, to provide more than 200 free “massive open online courses,” known as MOOCs.
Could there be a time in the near future where the richest universities simply give away their “content” for many undergraduate classes? Could this be the next wave of “content marketing” that may depend on monetization through adjacent products and services?
Universities are among the most inefficient and slowest-moving institutions on earth (speaking from experience!). They could be facing severe and rapid financial consequences if they don’t find a way to maintain their relevance in the digital age.
Colliding trends: 1) Internet information density 2) Even more information density
New trend: Emphasis on entertaining content. Let’s face it. It’s not that hard to be in the content marketing game today. But the bar for quality content is being raised day by day. What will it take to cut through? Entertainment!
Companies will have to continuously push for more interesting, timely and entertaining content to remain relevant. Here are the implications: The need for exceptional content creators will be high. The cost of content marketing is going to go up over time as we place more emphasis on design and entertainment value. Coke just turned their website into a news magazine. That’s where the market is heading. How are you going to stand out?
The singularity in sight?
Colliding trends: 1) Man-machine interface, 2) Rapidly-improving artificial intelligence.
New trend: The “singularity” is the emergence of greater-than-human superintelligence that has long been theorized by science fiction writers. It is a controversial and yet nonetheless fascinating topic. Is it coming into view?
A hyper-intelligent IBM computer (Watson) being training to be a medical doctor. For $1,500, Google glasses can take you another step toward the man-machine interface — ubiquitous information as part of our bodies. Mind-controlled exo-skeleton connected to humans are helping parapalegics to walk, and robots can be controlled by human brain implants. Japanese researchers are building humanoid robots with bones and muscles. Eureqa is a software system that uses evolutionary computing to discover laws of nature that scientists haven’t been able to solve on their own.
And the rate of progress is accelerating. Can we doubt that many of us will live to see the day when machines become self-aware?
A revolution in design
Colliding trends: 1) Rapid digital replacement of bulky physical assets; 2) A need for more compact urban living spaces
New trend: Empty design. This is a bit of a wild idea but I was moving a box of old records and began thinking how the bulk we used to have to deal with is going away — books, paper files, records and CD’s, huge stereo systems, TV components.
Think about the effect this must be having on the world of design. Most furniture and housing units are designed to maximize storage space but this is no longer a primary requirement. What will we do with all this extra space formerly devoted to shelves, closets and drawers? I think the consolidation of gadgets and cloud storage will revolutionize urban living.
OK, I’ve had my fun. Now it’s your turn! What do you think of these prognostications? What trends are you watching in 2013?