2015 Predictions: The Year of Alternatives
For the past few years, I have actively spent time to think about what technology trends will have the biggest impact in the coming one to three years. At the beginning of 2014, I spoke about the Maker Movement, the rise of tech in healthcare, autonomous cars, additive manufacturing (large-scale 3D printing of livable structures), the importance of emotional interfaces, and the adoption of alternative business models, such as Holacracy and Amoeba Management.
The following trends are those I have noticed, been attracted to, thought about, and discussed with friends over the past few months. I feel that all of them will become leading topics of discussion throughout 2015.
The Growth of The Collaborative Economy and The Future of Work
By far, the biggest shake up of the past few years has been the mass adoption of the new sharing and collaborative economies. Traditional businesses are starting to find it harder and harder to survive in the current economic climate, as it is now so easy to work, travel, create, and exist just by using a credit card and a mobile device.
The big shakers, such as Uber, Lyft, Car2Go, and Airbnb are changing how we travel and stay, companies such as freelancer.com can help find you the resources to take your idea and make it a successful reality. You can pay for some of the things you need using Bitcoin (and other crypto currencies), and you can even fund a projects and create bespoke goods using platforms such asEtsy, Quirky, Indiegogo, and Kickstarter. All are hugely disruptive to their respective conventional industries
Right now in the United States, two million Americans are leaving their jobs every week (US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics), and the nine-to-five work culture is crumbling as people report they no longer like their bosses, they lack empowerment, there are too much internal politics, and there is an overall lack of recognition. Employees are demanding more, and they are not being giving the chances they feel they deserve. Even some high-level corporate executives are planning to start their own businesses on the sly. And why not? I feel that Jacob Morgan, Author of The Future of Work, put it very well:
Change is the only constant and in that type of an environment the only way to know what works and what doesn’t is by trying things out. Every experiment is a chance to learn what works and what doesn’t.
And, in companies that are structured in traditional ways, i.e. that are more hierarchical and bureaucratic, there is more of a chance that productivity will be affected as members of the workforce become disgruntled and plan their escape routes. It’s almost as though the ‘collaborative economy’ should really be called the ‘courage economy’.
Companies such as VALVE – with their open framework of delivering value as detailed in their new employees’ guide, Zappos – with the adoption of a holocratic style of management, and Virgin – with the removal of vacation restrictions (with guidelines) are all heralding new ways of how modern businesses should be operating as well. It’s all about trusting employees. Back in 2010, a study by Watson Wyatt showed that high-trust companies outperform low-trust companies by nearly 300 percent. That’s not just a significant statistic; it’s game changing. Even author Stephen M.R. Covey summarizes very nicely why trust is so important to businesses:
When trust is low, in a company or in a relationship, it places a hidden ‘ tax ’ on every transaction: every communication, every interaction, every strategy, every decision is taxed, bringing speed down and sending costs up.
Wearable Computing Grows Up
2015 is the year when wearables will grow up. Over the past two to three years, we have seen all kinds of wearable computing – watches, glasses, cameras, and sensors in clothes – however, the average person is still trying to work out what to do with it all. It takes a lot of effort and consideration to quantify your life and do something useful with the data. One person who has spent a number of years wearing computing and optimizing their life is Chris Dancy, arguably the ‘most connected human’. Chris attended Cyborg Camp YVR in 2013, and it was clear that he was dedicated to the power of wearables. This year he spoke at Cyborg Camp held at MIT about kindness and compassion, as the power of access to so much data provides great power (this video is well worth watching):
All of this data is starting to be seen differently by the authorities. In Canada, there is a personal-injury suit in Calgary in which a woman is using FitBit data – to show how her activity levels have declined since having an accident. A third-party analytics firm, called Vivametrica, which will analyze the data and provide its report with findings to the court, will be involved versus just submitting raw data into evidence. This use of data is an unexpected one, which could set a challenging precedent as the availability of such data increases. Quant-hacking anyone?
OK, turning now from the personal use of devices and data towards a more applied use for business, whichis where so many wearables companies are focusing their efforts. Here in Vancouver, there are a number of companies that are going beyond normal consumer-based products. The first is a company calledCommand Wear that has developed a wearable technology solution for command systems, such as police and response units. They are driving forward with their solution that empowers the global public safety and security industry to make communities safer. Fatigue Science is also focusing on improving human performance and preventing fatigue-related risk in sports and the workplace:
Other companies, such as Recon Jet and Plantiga, are developing solutions for athletes to optimize their performance and provide data at the times it’smost needed. Accelerators such as Wavefront and Wearable World Labs are really helping people get ahead in these spaces, and consultancies such as Accenture and Vandrico are helping companies work out what they want as well.
Yet, it seems that there are a lot of people still talking about conceptual products, but finding it very challenging to deliver. Recently, I visited Professor Steve Mann at his Humanistic Intelligence Engineering Lab at the University of Toronto. There, he and his students live by the motto ‘Demo or die!’. You can’t just talk about concepts; you have to build them. That’s exactly what he has been doing since the late 1970s.
We’ll Be Watched 24 Hours a Day and We’ll Want More Privacy
Recently, I watched a video of Greg Borenstein, from the MIT Media Lab, talk about ‘More Pixels Law: How the Camera is Becoming the World’s Most Important Sensor’. There have been leaps and bounds in research and development of groundbreaking vision systems that allow people to do more productive things. In 1974, Steve Sassen created the first digital camera. Today, we are surrounded by cameras, we carry them in our pockets, and each month over 6 billion images are loaded to Facebook alone. In fact, it is claimed that over 880 billion photos will have been uploaded in 2014 (as detailed in a recent presentation by Yahoo). Google+ Stories will even help users download and auto-enhance photos to make sure that everyone has a bright, beaming smile in each picture. It’s the most photogenic side of you that has likely not existed before.
In addition , the omniscient presence of video cameras, including facial recognition technology, such as CCTV in the streets and in retail environments (primarily stores and malls), means society is 100 percent surrounded, whether we like it or not. Even companies such as placemeter.com are asking citizens to actively be part of a metering system that overlooks stores, restaurants, bars, or shops. They incentivize with cash. The more you see, the more they will pay you. That’s right, placemeter is paying people to film in their surroundings?
A lot of people are waking up to this situation and are also concerned with how people are being tracked online and how their data is being used. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) launched the www.ifightsurveillance.org website to promote encryption and help defend privacy rights. Even WhatsApp is working with Open Whisper Systems to provide end-to-end encryption, and according to them, the messaging tool’s Android client release already uses “TextSecure encryption protocol”.
Tim Berners-Lee has been very public in talking about the dark side of surveillance on the Internet:
I had hoped that the web would provide tools and to break national barriers and provoke a better global understanding, but it’s staggering to me that people who must have been brought up like anybody else will suddenly become very polarized in their opinions and will suddenly become very hateful instead of very loving. Well, maybe it’ll happen in the future. Maybe we will be able to build web-based tools that help us keep people on the path of collaborating rather than fighting.
The profiles of applications and devices that help maintain privacy will rise throughout 2015. TOR browsing software, RedPhone, Wickr, Silent Text (and other Silent Circle apps), Hushmail, Sure Spot, GSM’s SecureVoice and other applications will become more mainstream, and devices like the Blackphone (also from Silent Circle) will be more commonplace.
Even Apple is taking this seriously. When it launched iOS 8 for iPhone and iPad users in September 2014, Apple included a security change that it said would make it nearly impossible for police agencies (or anyone else for that matter) to unlock the devices without the owner’s consent. Previously, the operating system allowed Apple to unlock devices if police or the FBI provided a search warrant. Needless to say, the authorities do not like this move. It was great for the average person who cares about privacy; however, it does mean that the bad guys could potentially get away (which is a bit of a moot point as the smart bad guys already get away with so much).
The Resurgence of Psychedelics and Smart Drugs
In the 1960s, Timothy Leary famously said ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’. It was a hugely revolutionary time for the youth, and minds were expanded and blown. The use of psychedelics such as LSD, mescaline, DMT, and psilocybin had a deep and profound effect on more liberal society and thinkers. Now, although most of these drugs are illegal, they have also become essential to many people conducting guided explorations in their respective fields, such as mathematicians, cartoonists, physicists, designers, software engineers, architects, and many other professions. The origins of modern fields of computing, graphics, chaos theory, and fractal geometry can largely be attributed to active (and guided) psychedelic use. Even Nobel Prize winner Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the DNA molecule in 1953, gave credit to LSD for paving the way to his discovery. Steve Jobs also stated that LSD is “one of the two or three most important things I’ve done in my life”. He created the world’s most valuable company creating products that people connect with on a deep emotional level.
James Fadiman, American Psychologist and Author, shares his personal experience as part of a group that undertook extensive research in the use of LSD and mescaline (with guidance on certain tasks) in the following video:
These drugs have been around for a long, long time, so why am I just now including them in an opinion piece on future trends?
2014 featured a number of stories on founders of technology companies, but it was in late August when a lot of the popular startup and tech press focused on what these people were doing in Black Rock City at Burning Man. Many people in Silicon Valley have been going to this week-long event for a number of years. Elon Musk has even been quoted as saying, “Burning Man is Silicon Valley”, and he came up with the idea of Solarcity while there one year.
It’s a place of radical inclusion, of creativity, of alternate thinkers. It’s a place where you can be someone else and escape the realities of life, partly through the use of psychedelics and other substances. It’s a place where people can dive into the core of emotional connection:
Part of what psychedelics do is they decondition you from cultural values. This is what makes it such a political hot potato. Since all culture is a kind of con game, the most dangerous candy you can hand out is one which causes people to start questioning the rules of the game
People are also starting to explore micro-dosing of LSD, which involves using small doses on a daily basis (for example, in coffee) to help their creative thinking and problem-solving. This is where the world will progress a lot more in 2015. Check out this article on using and the effects of micro-doses of LSD to drive more creative thought.
Lastly, in addition to illegal psychedelics, there has been a rise in the use of ‘smart drugs’, nootropics (neuro-enhancers), and nutrition to help with sharpness of thought and focus. Products such as AlphaBRAIN® and Bulletproof® Coffee have become commonplace.
Maybe it’s time to turn on, tune in, and start up?
Nikolas Badminton is a world-respected futurist speaker that researches, speaks, and writes about the future of work, how technology is affecting the workplace, how workers are adapting, the sharing economy, and how the world is evolving. He appears at conferences in Canada, USA, UK, and Europe. Email him to book him for your radio, TV show, or conference.