On the occasion of PAGEO Club’s March 10, 2016 event, the chief editor of WIRED magazine’s British edition spoke about the kind of future we must prepare for, as well as the most important traits we need to posses when thinking about the future, so that we may successfully orient ourselves in our world that is becoming ever faster. Summarizing his dynamic talk, he claimed that the future cannot be rejected, we must count on change and be able to live with it, even if a large portion of it seems incomprehensible to us.
David Rowan is Editor-at-large of WIRED magazine’s, the world’s number one technology magazine, UK edition. Under his leadership, WIRED has broken out of traditional publication’s constraints and it has been complemented with an ecosystem of conferences and applications, and what’s more, with several consulting threads. David Rowan gets invited to personal consultation from London to Shenzhen, China. He is in touch with the most innovative people on an everyday basis, such as the founders of WhatsApp, LinkedIn, BuzzFeed, Spotify and Nest. David is a firm believer that our future is not inscrutable: although the Internet, big data, 3D printing and mobile phones provide inconceivably large opportunities and tremendous risks for us, these can all be analyzed. Technology forces all branches of the industry to continuous renewal. Owing to this pattern, our social and consumption habits are transformed as well. What kind of effects do these technology-led social changes have on us and our place in the world?
In addition to WIRED, David also edits GQ’s column “Digital Life”, and writes under the pseudonym “Tech Traveller” for Condé Nast’s business magazine. In the past, he served as the editor of The Guardian, but he also conquered the columns on The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Telegraph, and Time Magazine. His influence and professional expertise are underscored by the fact that the British government commissioned David from among tech opinion leaders to act as the curator of the exhibition “British Creative Talent”. In his talk, David Rowan spoke about we may form a mental image of the future already in the present day. As WIRED magazine, where he acts as Editor-at-large writes primarily about research institutes that themselves pursue future-oriented research, he shared a few thoughts with the audience about these experiences. First of all, it is vital that we do not regard the future as technological development, but using a different approach: things will become accessible to us that will help us develop our personalities, simplify carrying out our tasks, and connecting us to people who matter to us. Rowan believes that things spread ever quicker and it is this quickened pace that we are increasingly unable to keep up. As an example, he mentioned drones which 10 years ago we regarded as some kind of military weapon (assuming we heard of drones), today anyone can access them, or even own a drone. Amazon is developing its courier drones ever more dynamically, and individual firms attempt to realize self-driving vehicles as an application field for drones. It is nearly incredible what a fast journey the development of self-driving vehicles have traveled from idea to implementation. Robotics is also developing at an astonishing speed.
Normally a bit of time has to pass before new innovations become widely accessible. The Apple II computer is an excellent example, as are the spread of Internet browsers, which took at least 4-5 years from the first experimental phase to commercialization. This period is getting shorter. Today, in the age of the Internet a good idea can spread more easily and speedily than ever before.
David Rowan Summarized in 10 Points The Changes We Must Count on in the Future
- The world will never move as slowly as again, it will only change faster. From the age of linear changes we enter into an age of exponential changes. (For instance, processors with a unit performance are becoming cheaper; DNA-sequencing is becoming cheaper, and in both cases, the price drop is exponential). This speed may even be dangerous if we are not aware of it – and if we wish to run a successful business.
- The world of marketing is transformed: the role of users grows when “advertising” products, or artificial intelligence plays an increasingly significant role. Artificially created “individuals” send us offers tailored to our personal needs on the basis of our browsing (or online purchasing) history, or ever more companies “employ” artificial intelligence to run their customer service (via chat programs).
- It becomes ever more difficult to maintain a separation between online and offline worlds. Owing to the widespread use of “smart” products our everyday lives become converted into data. “The Internet of things” is only in a beta phase today, but soon billions of sensors will surround us sending data to the network.
- Every business will employ artificial intelligence. With artificial intelligence, it becomes possible to execute simulations at a minimal cost that had never before been possible (eg. in city control, traffic control).
- Today we must think in networks and not in hierarchies. The opinion and agreement of the “crowd” counts, crowdsourcing projects based on community contributions flourish, or sharing economy (today for instance Airbnb accommodates a lot more guests than the Hilton hotel chain, and this without having to change as much as a single bedsheet.)
- New companies emerge out of nothing wherever we look. New market players appear who can significantly reshape our view about individual industry branches.
- Design triumphs, everything becomes ever simpler. Those companies survive that satisfy real human demands at the simplest way possible. (For instance, Uber works in a completely automatized way at the most convenient way possible for the customer instead of circumstantial taxicab trips.) This is not only true for companies, there are forward thinking examples of e-governance as well (for instance, there was an effort to make the online public administration portal of the United Kingdom as user friendly as possible and this approach has become fairly popular.)
- In the future, we will not be using our devices via keyboards, and not through Google glass, but rather through an interface that does not yet exist today. The development of virtual reality is one of the most important innovations today.
- Security becomes an ever more pressing concern. Everything can be hacked, there are news of hacker attacks every day.
- The startup company approach will triumph in the future. Companies must be capable of trying something new, failing, and then trying again. Several large companies reorganize their operations, for instance GE operates ever more like a startup company, it is open to new ideas, and if a new innovation comes rushing in the door that seems useful then it is realized. The companies are ever more open to the public telling them what innovation would be attractive to them and they realize the most popular ideas.
The presenter summarized his talk by asking us to be prepared, as a new device that will change our way of thinking about the future is sure to arrive, as the iPhone did in 2007. In order to understand the future, it is important to recognize what this new device can change, and we should not judge it on the basis of its physical appearance (or even reject it, as did Steve Ballmer, the ex CEO of Microsoft, for instance, with the iPhone when it came out).