The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that will Shape our Future

Author Kevin Kelly co-founded Wired Magazine and writes a lot about the future of tech and digital media. This is his newest book and blew my mind…In fact, I liked it so much I have since re-read it.

He starts by taking a look at the current state of our technology, from mobile, AI, biotech, transportation drones, social media, and so on. He explains how these industries are evolving and provides some practical examples of what that could look like (from the importance of questions to the dangers of AI); it all boils down to 12 forces that he believes will ultimately shape the future. Those 12 forces are:

  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.[8]
  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 personalization in order to anticipate our desires
  8. Remixing: Unbundling existing products into their most primitive parts and then recombining in all possible ways
  9. Interacting: Immersing ourselves inside our computers to maximize their engagement
  10. Tracking: Employing total surveillance for the benefit of citizens and consumers
  11. Questioning: Promoting good questions is far more valuable than good answers
  12. Beginning: Constructing a planetary system connecting all humans and machines into a global matrix

Recommended reading for anyone who feels like I do about the future —  concerned and excited. Also, for people scoping out business ideas, this will give you some food for thought.

Ideas/quotes from the book:

-We are morphing so fast that our ability to invent new things outpaces the rate we can civilize them. These days it takes us a decade after a technology appears to develop a social consensus on what it means and what etiquette we need to tame it. In another five years we’ll find a polite place for twittering, just as we figured out what to do with cell phones ringing everywhere.

-Constant flux means more than simply “things will be different.” It means processes—the engines of flux—are now more important than products. Our greatest invention in the past 200 years was not a particular gadget or tool but the invention of the scientific process itself.

-A world without discomfort is utopia. But it is also stagnant. A world perfectly fair in some dimensions would be horribly unfair in others. A utopia has no problems to solve, but therefore no opportunities either. None of us have to worry about these utopia paradoxes, because utopias never work. Every utopian scenario contains self-corrupting flaws. My aversion to utopias goes even deeper. I have not met a speculative utopia I would want to live in. I’d be bored in utopia.

-If all the images of my life, and all the snippets of my interests, and all my notes, and all my chitchat with friends, and all my choices, and all my recommendations, and all my thoughts, and all my wishes—if all this is sitting somewhere, but nowhere in particular, it changes how I think of myself. I am larger than before, but thinner too. I am faster, but at times shallower. I think more like a cloud with fewer boundaries, open to change and full of contradiction. I contain multitudes! This whole mix will be further enhanced with the intelligence of machines and AIs. I will be not just Me Plus, but We Plus.

-Question makers will be seen, properly, as the engines that generate the new fields, new industries, new brands, new possibilities, new continents that our restless species can explore. Questioning is simply more powerful than answering.

A quote from the book:

“Around 2002 I attended a private party for Google—before its IPO, when it was a small company focused only on search. I struck up a conversation with Larry Page, Google’s brilliant cofounder. “Larry, I still don’t get it. There are so many search companies. Web search, for free? Where does that get you?” My unimaginative blindness is solid evidence that predicting is hard, especially about the future, but in my defense this was before Google had ramped up its ad auction scheme to generate real income, long before YouTube or any other major acquisitions. I was not the only avid user of its search site who thought it would not last long. But Page’s reply has always stuck with me: “Oh, we’re really making an AI.” I’ve thought a lot about that.”


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