Blockchain, Tech and Business

6 technological revolutions beyond Digital

 

Iceberg
IMG Source: Barbara Avalos via Guillermo Avalos

There are 6 technological revolutions beyond Digital that will bring uncertainty and change to our world in the next two decades. These revolutions are already proven and working and are in the process of being deployed across the world.

 

In the traditional view of technological revolutions, like the one espoused by Carlota Perez in her “Technological Revolutions”, it takes 70 years for each cycle to fully deploy and the next one to come to age. If this were true we would spend the next 30-40 years deploying Digital fully. It would be a time of less uncertainty because Digital is mature and predictable already.

However, there are six technological revolutions that stand ready to cause radical change over the next couple of decades. They will bring most of the uncertainty and change as they start deployment while Digital runs its course. The change they will bring will be more fundamental than Digital, as they will touch our physical reality more deeply, even reaching our bodies and minds. These changes are also obscure for us at this point. We cannot fully imagine them, so they will be difficult to adapt to.

These six revolutions go well beyond just the next extension of digital. All of them are empowered by Digital and build on its complexity. At the same time, they bring very different disciplines to bear:  AI, biology, chemistry, display technology, sensors and actuators, cryptography and even psychology and neurology. All these disciplines transform and extend the potential of digital beyond its current capabilities.

The 6 key paradigm shifts that are coming are:

Intelligent  Processes. Digitally empowering with AI helpers all the processes in our world, both business and personal. All our actions will be empowered by virtual intelligences that will record, automate and support our decisions. Software-as-a-service enhanced by AI will be deployed to every corner of our world, eliminating most manual and repetitive tasks and giving us unforeseen wisdom in our decisions. Many processes will take care of themselves as if we had an army of helpful elves at our disposal.

Integrated reality. Fully merging and integrating the digital and the physical world. Recording completely the physical world through sensors, and enhancing its perception for humans through digitally augmented reality. Allowing for programming and action in the physical world by deploying actuators and robots that can do our bidding with the same ease that they do in the digital world today. Eroding the difference between “real reality” and “virtual reality”, as the real is enhanced through digital and the virtual can have a real counterpart.

New Energy-Transportation Matrix. Continuing the journey of more energy and transportation capability per human. Using solar power and storage to make energy practically free and nonpolluting for everyone. Leveraging autonomous transportation to reduce the real and cognitive cost of travel and transport by at least an order of magnitude.

Digital Governance. Using blockchain, integrated reality, marketplaces and AI to make laws and contracts automatic, self-enforcing and intelligent. Substituting human based adjudication and decision-making by code-based laws and enforcement. Reducing the cost and time of the legal system to a fraction and eliminating non-compliance. Substituting fiat money for cryptography-enabled intelligent mediums of exchange. Making corruption impossible, but our governments and companies hackable.

Bioprogramming. The control and programmability of organisms including our own bodies and genomes, allowing to transcend health and access biofabrication. Being able to create new lifeforms and alter existing ones. Making biology the equivalent of web page programming. Impacting life expectancy and quality of life dramatically. Opening up digital ethical questions about reproduction and identity

Neurogamification. The full leverage of our knowledge of our brains and psychological control mechanisms to increase engagement and attention in all settings. Understanding how we can be influenced and motivated. Making superhuman feats of willpower, learning and concentration routine. Revealing advertising and manipulation as the next super-weapon. Opening up difficult questions about free-will and meaning.

The impact of this six can be expected to be astounding, much deeper and broader than what we have experienced through digital. The tail end of digital deployment combined with the big 6 will probably create a world that is difficult to recognize. It might be a world of Abundance, like Peter Diamandis and Singularity University defend, or it might be something else we cannot understand today. For sure, it will bring difficult ethical debates and questions as we get closer to our core as beings.

Companies, individuals, and investors will see the ground shift massively, many losing their position if they don’t move fast enough. The best proof of this is Google’s and Facebook’s obsession with some of these trends. Google’s shift from Mobile-first to AI-first shows the lessons learned from the deployment of mobile and how even a top 5 company feels it needs to transform or die. We can apply the same to the most valued jobs or sectors. Will there be a need for programmers when AIs are being taught to code? What will be the value of gold, the euro or the dollar when you can use cryptocurrencies as a value reserve instead of trusting politicians?

These paradigm shifts are not idle speculations. Rather they are realities that are routinely leveraged in some corners of the world. As William Gibson famously said, “The future is here, it is just unevenly distributed”. What we will see is the extension and perfection of these existing technological revolutions across the economy.

Based on a broad survey of many futurist analysis and trends these six seem the most relevant for the next couple of decades. However, there are another five paradigm shifts that could be relevant in the longer term (20-50 years). Hopefully for many of us still well within in our lifetimes. These additional technological revolutions are Nanoscale Technology, Commercial and Residential use of Outer Space, Mind-machine Interfaces and Integration, Quantum Computing, and General AI/Virtual People. These technology revolutions are still in the theory, science fiction, and initial experiments stage. We should watch them emerge over the next decades.

Tech and Business

Digital is Boring: Mature and Predictable

 

waves
Source: Wallpaper Vortex

We think that digital causes change and uncertainty. However, even if it has a lot of change left there is little uncertainty in it. Uncertainty comes from a new set of paradigm shifts that go beyond information processing and will change our physical world. Digital is the tip of the iceberg, but most change will come from below.

 

We live in tremendous change and uncertainty. The most cited cause for this is “digital”. Digital is the new catchphrase. Digital is what is changing everything. People are trying to become digital. Companies are creating Chief Digital Officers and Digital Transformation Plans. Governments have Digital Agendas.

Digital also means the top 5 companies by market capitalization in the world. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, and their Chinese counterparts Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu.

Digital is a fuzzy term with no formal definition. It can be thought to encompass the integrated impact of 8 technologies that build on each other:

  • Internet. The internet is the decentralized intercommunication of computing devices through high capacity digital channels. The internet was originated as a defense project by DARPA, a USA government agency, and opened to commercial use in the mid-nineties. HTTP is the “language of the internet” developed by Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at the European CERN. The combination of the internet and HTTP has created “the web” as we conceive it today which is the foundation of digital.
  • Digital Marketing. As with all other human media, the first step for the internet was advertising and lead generation. While internet advertising was born fragmented, it rapidly coalesced to a single major chokepoint, search. Google sprung from leveraging that chokepoint for digital marketing which still accounts for most of its revenue. Digital Marketing has gradually eaten up traditional media in the process.
  • eCommerce. The second step for the internet was taking economic activity online. Selling and buying stuff was enabled by reusing the existing offline payments (credit cards) and delivery (postal and courier systems) infrastructure.  Amazon emerged as the eCommerce juggernaut working on the delivery side. eCommerce is still in the initial steps of disrupting retail.
  • Cloud. Cloud is a centralized computing and storage paradigm that was developed on top of the internet in the first decade of the 2000s using virtualization technologies. Cloud uses central capacity to allow for an optimized use of resources and shared access to information, reducing dramatically the cost of deploying technology. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are the largest cloud players. Cloud has disrupted the traditional technology hardware business.
  • Big Data. With centralized storage came big data. The possibility of storing and analyzing information at scales which were uneconomical until then. Big Data is the possibility of new ways of data gathering, analytics, and visualization through the cloud and internet. This new richness in data is what has lead to the “data as oil” metaphor. Everything Digital leverages Big Data today
  • Social. Social emerged from the internet, cloud and big data. Once you have a centralized register and direct one to one communication you get social. You could centralize the registry of people you knew (Facebook) and communicate directly with them (Skype). This eventually was transferred to the business realm (LinkedIn, Salesforce Chatter, Yammer, Slack…) and social came to business.
  • Mobility. Mobility followed the PC based internet. It unfettered access from cables and put it in our hands. The effective marriage of mobile phones the Internet and Cloud was accomplished through Steve Job’s iPhone in 2007. Mobility has totally transformed society in less than 10 years and propelled Apple to the number one spot. Traditional internet and cloud players had to adapt to mobility with some thriving (Google, Facebook, Amazon) and others being rendered obsolete by it (Yahoo!, eBay), while others emerged in “mobile social” (e.g. Snapchat, Pinterest).
  • Platforms and Marketplaces. With the new mobile social cloud, a whole new world of possibilities opened with platforms. Creating two-sided markets that linked demand and supply for various sectors in high volume interactions. The last generation of unicorns came from here (Uber, AirBnB, etc….).

Digital is very important and has transformed the world. However, the technologies incorporated in it are “mature” now. The most advanced companies in the world have already adopted them fully and are leveraging them to a large percentage of their potential.  We can see the impact that digital technologies will have, there is little uncertainty left in them. It is a matter of time until this paradigm is fully deployed and its full impact felt.

Of course, there is substantial change left to happen. The adoption curve or the disruption it will cause is not complete. Advertising might be quite far along the path, but other sectors like retail still are feeling the initial impacts. Traditional companies, governments, SMEs and many individuals still haven’t adopted digital, with different estimates of “digital potential” put adoption between 10 and 20%. Even so, this change will be mostly in how we process and relate to information, it has a comparatively small impact on the physical world

Uncertainty and change to our physical reality will come from the new set of paradigm shifts on the horizon. Some are direct heirs of the digital technologies (like Software Processes, Integrated Reality or Digital Governance), others come from a completely different angle but are empowered by digital technology (like the New Energy and Transportation Matrix, Bioprogramming or Neurogamification). All of these new paradigm shifts that come below the iceberg will transform our physical world and way of live and business beyond recognition. Digital was just one paradigm shift. Below the iceberg we have at least 6 new paradigm shifts with others looming beyond in the horizon. These paradigm shifts are uncertain. They will be the sources of surprise and disruption we cannot still predict.