Sent from the future
As another lap around the sun draws to a close, it’s customary to pause, reflect and dream about what the new year will have in store for us individually and globally. This morning, while having a cappuccino in the sun (that’s Christmas in Australia!), I was considering the urban fable about boiling frogs* is actually an interesting metaphor for change. Like frogs, we can get used to really extreme things - as long as they are sprung upon us gently. Degree by degree. If the change is too drastic, the idea does not stick. The frog jumps out of the boiling water.
In 1949, 1984 was a farfetched fantasy that was easily dismissed. In 1932, Huxley’s vision of a genetically modified society was again a far removed fantasy. 1995’s Strange Days was nothing short of mind-blowing. Twenty three years later we are almost there. In 2011, In Time gave us a glimpse into implantable devices and an alternate economic system. Seemed surreal then, in 2018, we’re almost there. Even Maeda’s predictions of life as we know it in 2020, written in 2010, would have resonated with only a few. The notion back then that kids would all be using mobile phones in class, and that 86% of the global population would have a physiological addiction to these devices would have seemed a stretch. No one took it seriously. The water was boiling. The gap was too large. So we jumped out.
In 2014, I wrote some stuff on wearable devices. The crux of that research was the observation that technology has trained us to crave increasingly shorter stimulus-response cycles. A letter by pigeon took months. No one got tied up in knots in the weeks between updates from family, friends and lovers. Fast forward 100 years. A text message lands in the recipient’s inbox. Left unanswered, it can induce feelings of angst and anxiety within minutes in the sender. Our expectations of when the stimulus-response cycle will complete are getting smaller and smaller. Following that trajectory, it’s reasonable that we will (I predict by 2022) be equipped with implantable devices which will reduce the stimulus-response gap to almost zero.
In 2014, the idea of implantable devices was still too far away. But in 2018, we have the stepping stones to close that gap. Apple pay. Tap and go. Carrying a card and inserting it into a card reader seems archaic. Degree by degree, we adapt. Carrying a phone, and tapping it will soon be inefficient too. The chips will be implanted. Degree by degree, it will seem normal. Tapping, scrolling and swiping will fall away. We will wonder about how our parents tolerated such inefficiency.
Idea of the day: Self driving cars are still too large of a gap. We need a stepping stone to help us get there: cars we can talk to. Siri, or Alexa in the car - someone I can chat with “Siri, take me to Sake at Eagle Street”. Right now, the navigation system in my (2018 model) car takes me about 2:30mins to program. It’s archaic. I don’t have time to do this. We have the technology to reduce the stimulus-response cycle. Once we get used to talking to our cars, the shift to asking them to park themselves, or just drive for a short while while we check text messages will seem natural. Degree by degree. Smaller gaps. Boiled frogs.
Wishing you all a festive and happy Holiday Season!
*Note, latest findings suggest is that the frogs will actually jump out of the tepid water, rather than stay for the boil