Thursday, September 18, 2014


As I lay in bed one morning, my head throbbing, I wondered why I couldn't handle a big night out like I used to.

In my early twenties, I could drink for hours on an empty stomach, and finish only as the sun came up. Usually with some greasy food on the way home, for good measure.

A decade later, so much has changed. Too much indulgence and I lose two days until I feel human again.

And this wasn't the first time where I have felt the prolonged effects of poor, nostalgic, decision making. But with each extended recovery session, I feel like the lesson is sinking in.

There is something paralysing about fundamental change, that it always requires pain to spur adjustment.

These days, it seems like many of the fundamental assumptions we grew up with are failing. That the rule book is being shredded as we watch. But we aren't learning yet. Not until the pain sinks in.

Like the global financial crisis. Like what we see coming with climate change.

If only we were a more rapidly adaptive species. No-one wants to be in a burning house, wishing they had installed smoke detectors. Or lying in bed, wondering how many more debilitating headaches are needed before you start to avoid multiple-hour benders.

Is it because we are obstinate? Or arrogant? Or apathetic?

Or is it because, when the destination is unclear, it is easier to rely on what has come before?

We have always burned fossil fuels, and we can't see the world without them, so we don't heavily invest in renewables. We have always had printed books, so we begrudgingly adopt the efficient delivery of e-books. We have always had the cinema, so we try and force people to go to multiplexes to watch movies, whether they want to or not.

No pain, yet, so the archaic models hold on.

But what if, instead, we had an articulated vision of what the future could look like. Would that make the unknown less terrifying, and therefore easier to begin our evolution?

I think so.

So, this is part one of a three part exploration of that idea: 'What will the future look like?'

And, in keeping with our hard-wiring, I thought it was best to start with something familiar: 'technology'.

Dating back decades, there have been an enormous number of predictions about what a technology based future will look like. While most have centred on sci-fi, or armageddon, they all have a similar theme.

That the world will look very different, almost alien, to how it does now.

Bizarrely shaped structures. Vehicles that look more like 'The Jetsons' than anything practical. Oh, and who could forget that idea that we all wear some small variations of exactly the same outfit? Silver velour with a 'V' stripe sound appealing?

But what if the world didn't look, on the surface, all that different in 50 years? Would that disappoint you?

In fact, the growing discourse is that the future will look quite similar to now, in many ways. To the eye, of course.

What you won't be able to see, by design, will be the huge amount of surreptitious technology that will be integrated into pretty much everything. The idea is that technology will become conspicuous by it's absence, rather than it's presence.

"What exactly does that look like?", I hear you ask, exasperated.

It looks like this:

A motorcycle helmet with video, GPS navigation and standard smart-phone capability built into it. The screen is, of course, the visor.

And this:

Visual displays, like your phone or tablet, built into any glass surface conceivable. Kitchen bench tops. Windows. The fridge.

But the integration is even more dramatic when it comes to phones and mobile technology. Currently, we think of phones and tablets as 'screens' that we have to interact with in a particular way.

But what if I told you we could live in a 'post screen' world? What would that look like?

Like this:

Augmented reality. Contact lenses that allow you to look at a blank wall and see a television. Implants that allow you to make a phone call by simply making gestures and then speaking.

In short, technology that you don't have to make a concerted choice to interact with. The technology supports you on your terms, rather than requiring you to make a deliberate effort to use it.

How much excess brain capacity could you unlock by having your technology work with you, rather than because of you? How many more minutes in a day could you reclaim?

These are all just ideas, of course. Even the motorcycle helmet, which is a crowdfunding campaign, doesn't technically exist. Yet.

But how much less daunting does the future seem when we imagine it through this lens? Not some alien reality to survive, but a world, still built for and by people, with the opportunities of more advanced knowledge at our fingertips.

Opportunity, not survival.

Except when it comes to hangovers. You have to survive those.

So lets hope hangover cures improve too.

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