I wouldn’t lay claim to be the first to say this (as people have been saying it since time began) but the world is changing. What is different is the rate at which it’s changing, technology development in particular is accelerating at a rate that has never been seen before.
There’s a term or movement called technological singularity, which has a global following. The Wikipedia definition of this is “a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement, or brain-computer interfaces will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilisation, and perhaps human nature”.
Now while I believe we’re sometime off this actually happening, we are entering a phase of both technological advancement and human evolution whereby we’re becoming more comfortable with technology taking care of “things” in our lives passively in the background. Examples of this could include automated Google Alerts for things that may interest us, fitness applications that monitor our progress and prompt activity and more recently the advent of smart objects in the “Real World Web” that are intelligently working to optimise their performance for our benefit.
This technological advancement is no where more visible than in the proliferation of mobile smart devices. This combined with the hand in hand development of global network infrastructure (Wifi and mobile data) has taken the world to its most connected state that our race has ever seen. This trend will only continue until we have faster and faster, more seamless data connectivity.
In turn what we’ve seen this connectivity drive is the ability for the global brands of the world to pursue us more and more accurately, in a way that some would deem intrusive, with their targeted advertising. We’re now able to target advertising on demographic (defined by postcode and now IP allocation), purchase behaviour, geo-location, social associations and this will continue to become progressively “smarter”. We’re able to serve interactive media, contextual media, and personalised media.
At the same time as all this progress is being made, we’re also recovering from a globally disabling recession which, if we’re honest, has predominantly been driven by global greed. Service levels had been forgotten about and the world’s economy was predominantly being motivated by shareholder desires for ever greater dividends, cut the bottom line and push profits. Was this progress?
The opportunity this presents us all with is a convergence of a human desire for a simplification of their complex every day lives to allow them to focus on the more important matters that require greater thought and then technology developments to allow this to occur. Whilst some might fear that this reduced requirement to make decisions for ourselves might result in a decline in human endeavour and output (e.g. we’ll all just get lazier), the last time a convergence like this happened it was quickly followed by one of the most dramatic artistic and intelligence booms in the Western World – otherwise know as the Renaissance.
It’s this opportunity that I believe we should grasp. We need to now use the technology at our disposal to create applications and experiences that assist us all in our human development. Help us to cope and understand the world around us in simplified and tuned in ways that feel complimentary and beneficial in our day to day lives, not intrusive and indicative of the era that has gone before.
It’s not the start of the technological singularity yet, but it can be the start of an era of positive technological application.