So as the Facebook IPO controversy settles, what’s next?
I’ve written from time to time on the importance of Twitter and what’s likely to happen to the likes of Facebook (scroll for links). But what’s the bigger picture? Because the picture is really big.
I’m assuming the tech keeps bubbling away, but the relation between technology, usage, markets, cultural significance, and all the other components of our human community is indirect and highly complex. On the tech front, AIs will keep getting better, so (for example) voice recognition and instant translation will be built into everything. Devices will get more portable and also more versatile. But what will really be happening?
More to follow as I spin out each of these Five.
Here are Five Futures I see just over the horizon. They need to be built into every one of our scenarios.
1. Social will be universal. Every adult and older child, including the very poor, will possess smart mobile devices. Social will encompass the human race.
2. Social will be a utility. Like landline telephony and the postal service, mobile will demand social inter-operability. Baseline social will be gardens with distinctive features but without walls.
3. Social will be personal. That is, it will be as private, confidential, or open, as we as individuals choose it to be, and easily, controllably so. No more book-length “privacy” statements; the simplicity and elegance of Apple design, as it were, will shape the personal functionality of social. One implication: traditional advertising models will remain on the margins, though innovative ones such as branded content will grow in impact.
4. Social will reshape every institution. All of our institutions – corporate, government, non-profit – have been shaped from the top down and the inside out. Social has already laid explosives under this modeling. From Gov. 2.0 to Biz 2.0 we have begun to see radical shifts in our institutions driven by a new accessibility and responsiveness – and requiring far more transparency and integrity. But this has only just begun.
5. Social will drive reciprocally curated knowledge networks. The exponential growth of data and knowledge will be managed through engines of social curation which will in turn to be driven by an interplay between expert and crowd sourcing.
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I like the idea of Five Futures, as opposed to the idea of five features of one future, if only for rhetorical reasons. Here’s why. We need to be open to the idea of interactions between these various futures, as well as possible interferences among them. There are those who want to privilege one or two of these futures, or even those who will want to make sure that some of them do not come to pass. I think the notion of five futures makes resistance to any of them more transparent.
Take China, for instance. There’s no Twitter access there, and I suspect it has a lot to do with trying to avoid Future #4. Future #3 will also have a difficult time taking hold in China, since the state controls everything there. Future #5, however, presents a dilemma for China. They surely want to be included in this future, especially in terms of science and technology and, more generally, development. But how does Future #5 relate to Futures #3 and #4?
If there were only one Future (with five features), then China could very well claim to be part of it (while downplaying, ignoring, or actively suppressing the features the state didn’t want). If there are Five Futures (the interactions among which still need to be examined), I think it makes it more difficult to deny one or more of them without also sounding like one is denying people the opportunity to participate in the future.
Concerning Future #3, “…it will be as private, confidential, or open, as we as individuals choose it to be, and easily, controllably so.” I sure do hope this is the case, but how? I don’t see how we’ll ever have complete controls over our online privacy. I hope it doesn’t happen, but I think we will lose all control over our online privacy, kind of like how it is now: if you use our free service, we use your info. And with complete court records available online in many states (Ex: http://myclerk.myorangeclerk.com/default.aspx), I believe the future will be just about as private as a glass house.
Thank you. We need not to be naive, but I do think a combination of the market and innovative tech options will in the end deliver us the kind of privacy we need and want. As citizens and consumers we are presently bemused by the “free” services that have so undercut our trad notions of privacy. We’re going through a revolution in the relations of tech and people and this is one of its hotspots. One key will be how today’s teens, the first gen raised entirely in the digital environment, end up thinking about this stuff when they settle down into adulthood.
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