The final installment in my review of Kevin Kelly’s book, The Inevitable (part 1, part 2). The last 4 continuous actions that are Inevitable over the next 30 years. Kelly moves on from ideas like accessing, filtering, and remixing into interacting.
The usual goal for increasing the degree of realism while you tell a story is to suspend disbelief. The goal for VR is not to suspend belief but to ratchet up belief–that you are somewhere else, and maybe even somebody else. (p. 212)
I’ve written a bit about Virtual and Augmented reality, but I had not thought them in this context. Kelly suggests an inevitable paradigm of the increased role of each is that fictional stories and experiences can appear more real than requiring us to either forget what we know or imagine a new version of reality. In reference to some of the ideas I touched on in using AR for training and learning, Kelly says this:
In most ways, the AR class will be superior to a real-world class. (p. 217)
He goes on to tell stories about kids that get frustrated when they can’t find the mouse for a TV, when a camera doesn’t show a preview of the picture, or when they can’t unpinch a physical photo to make it bigger. The level of interactivity expected by children leads to an interesting conclusion that he mentions twice in the chapter.
Yes, if something is not interactive, it is broken. (p. 223)
In the coming 30 years, anything that is not intensely interactive will be considered broken. (p. 236)
Kelly goes on to mention that the presence of interaction in VR/AR could be intoxicating (p. 228). He also suggests that it’s something that initially we only want in small amounts but has no limit to how much we’ll crave it over time. (p. 229)
Our interactions won’t only be with devices, and programs or “realities,” but with ourselves. We’ll move beyond merely interacting to intentionally tracking.
This is another topic I’ve touched on earlier, specifically the idea of the quantified self. Kelly goes much farther in this chapter of his book explaining how he believes we will experience this new world of tracking everything about ourselves.
In the long term, the quantification in the quantified self will become invisible. Self-tracking will go far beyond numbers. (p. 242)
In the long term this is the destiny of many of the constant streams of data flowing from our bodily sensors. They won’t be numbers; they will be new senses. (p. 243)
The collection of all of this information is something Kelly calls lifelogging, or more specifically our lifestream. He gives 25 examples of items that we are currently using in everyday life that are already putting together this easily tracked version of ourselves such as the chips that record our driving habits, cameras in civic, home, and work spaces, loyalty cards for retail spaces, social media usage, e-wallets and e-banks like Mint, and even the IRS. Despite the misgivings many people have about their quickly dissipating privacy, Kelly posits that, “Fifty years from now ubiquitous tracking will be the norm (p. 255).”
To further the idea that this is inevitable, a connection is drawn between the increase of information and the increase of technological power. Moore’s Law, despite arguments that it can’t keep going, suggests that technology will double in power every 18 months. The rate at which information is increasing is 66% per year, which works out to doubling every 18 months.
With the continual increase in technology and information, and the ways in which it appears it will change our lives, all of this tracking leads to questioning.
What effect will this constant state of change in technology have on society? The author speaks about how Wikipedia led him to change his own personal belief about social power. He marvels at the idea that the right tools allowed it to be easier to remove bad text than to create that same bad text simply due to the social structure of Wiki. Kelly calls himself an individualist with libertarian leanings that has a new appreciation of social power due to tools like Wiki. He goes so far as to ask question what might be possible now:
The technium–the modern system of culture and technology–is accelerating the creation of new impossibilities by continuing to invent new social organizations. (p. 273)
When we weave ourselves together into a global real-time society, former impossibilities will really start to erupt into reality. (p. 274)
It might be fairer to say that what is natural for a tribe of mildly connected humans will not be natural for a planet of intensely connected humans. (p. 274)
Not only is what’s considered possible undergoing change, but the questions we ask are changing more rapidly than ever before. It’s eroding our sense of truly knowing things but could also be deepening our sense of questioning and wanting to learn. Looking at his own understanding, Kelly says, “Ironically, in an age of instant global connection, my certainty about anything has decreased (p. 279).”
Moving beyond just his own questioning, he suggests that we all feel like we know less and question more with the more that we learn.
Telescopes, radioscopes, cyclotrons, atom smashers expanded not only what we knew, but birthed new riddles and expanded what we didn’t know. Previous discoveries helped us to recently realize that 96 percent of all matter and energy in our universe is outside of our vision. (p. 283)
The more disruptive the technology or tool is, the more disruptive the questions it will breed. (p. 284)
Who will be most capable of handling this new landscape? If his conclusions are correct, Kelly seems to think the creative class is most suited for it. Those who are willing to follow their passions, follow their rabbit trails, and ask questions of everything.
Picture the thousands of millions of people online at this very minute. To my eye they are not wasting time with silly associative links, but are engaged in a more productive way of thinking…Compare that to the equivalent of hundreds of millions of people 50 years ago watching TV or reading a newspaper in a big chair. (p. 281)
Question makers will be seen, properly, as the engines that generate new fields, new industries, new brands, new possibilities, new continents that our restless species can explore. Questioning is simply more powerful than answering. (p. 289)
So, what does all the accessing and filtering of technology and information that is constantly becoming and flowing across our screens lead to? It leads to a perpetual state of beginning.
Everything will be new, or at least exude a state of newness at all times. Learning will be the key means of staying relevant. Questioning will be the way that humanity moves itself forward. As these various technologies coalesce to form a version of reality that we haven’t encountered before, we will begin to encounter our world in a very different way. Once things become ubiquitous, and the technology simply understands us well enough to predict what we want and need, the only thing left is for everyone to be on board as we move into a new phase of human history.
At current rates of technological adoption I estimate that by the year 2025 every person alive–that is, 100 percent of the planet’s inhabitants–will have access to this platform via some almost-free device. (p. 293)
That may seem crazy right now, but some of the leading technological adoption and innovation in the world right now is coming out of places like Kenya and Afghanistan. My personal research area is technology and the homeless and there’s ample research that those who are homeless in the US use social media and devices at rates that are not statistically different from their housed age group peers. 2025 might be a bit ambitious, but I doubt it’s more than 5 years beyond that.
So, what are you going to do about it?
What are you doing to prepare yourself for a rapidly, and likely constantly, changing world of technology and how are you going to react to it?