Right this second, you’re more connected than any other human before you. Thousands of people, facts, thoughts and things become accessible to you as you read each of these words.
Big deal? Well, I guess we’re all aware that we’re living through an era loosely termed as the “Information Age“.
Each day sees a plethora of different articles and posts published which, in equal measures, document and examine, celebrate and angst about the possible cultural, social and political changes that we’re possibly about to experience.
Well, I recently rediscovered a chart that I created back in 1999 with the intention of mapping the rise of our emerging digital interactivity. With a little updating, it helps to break through the clutter and provide us with a rough “you are here” view (I’ll post more about the “Multiple Digital Channel” map in the next couple of days).
Looking at it again now we can also get an idea of where we’ll probably be in another 15 years. It looks like we’re just about at the “end-of-the-beginning”. And there’s much more to come.
The Three Phases Of Connecting:
There are 3 broad phases in the rise of our ongoing connectedness:
1. Where We’ve Been: Extra-connecting (1990 to early 2000’s). Think:
- desktop computers & early laptops connect to the internet individually as “extra” add-on functionality via dial-up modems and early broadband
- computer use is primarily corporate and initially immobile (desktops and servers)
- 1st & 2nd Generation mobile phones move from being corporate productivity tools to become consumer communication devices
- emergence of early mobile computers: PDA’s (Personal Data Assistants)
- e-mail and Instant Messaging becoming pervasive at work and home
2. Where We Are: Inter-connecting (early 2000’s to mid-2010’s). Think:
- Internet connectivity starts to be viewed as a utility
- Inter-connectivity of devices gradually becomes pervasive (multiple screens)
- personal device (phone) form & functionality goes through rapid evolution, settling on a single large rectangular screen form factor (content is king)
- smarter devices start to interact – enabling mass social interaction (Social Media)
- everyone becomes connected: being always-on, connected and available is the expected norm
- more peripheral electronics (white goods, TV’s) start to become extra and inter-connected
3. Where We’re Going: Intra-connecting (mid-2010’s to 2030 and beyond). Think:
- persistent ambient connectivity – where we are seamlessly and deeply intra-connected within our environment and with others when we choose to be (we hope)
- devices become more personal and proliferate:
- devices become wearable e.g. screens in spectacles evolve into contact lens screens
- bio-implant devices gradually become acceptable:
- the Internet of Things – everything becomes connected, tagged and recognisable:
These three phases are far from finite. They’re a work in progress. They flow into each other organically as people adopt and discard new behaviours, in turn further evolving the underlying technology.
“The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed” – William Gibson
Importantly, access to these technologies and new capabilities depends on your culture, context and access to cash. If we truly believe in creating a meritocratic world where everybody has an equal chance to progress, concerns regarding a growing global digital divide will also need to be addressed.
“If you understood everything I said, you’d be me”
For many, a greater concern will be the ways in which our sense of self and identity evolve as social pressure grows to be perpetually connected and visible to the “hive“.
Viewed together, the changes will doubtless be profound. Yet as we live through them, what once seemed like science fiction very quickly becomes normal and even unremarkable. How cool is e-mail these days?
“We know what we are, but not what we may be.”
― William Shakespeare
Knowing as we do, in very broad terms, what’s coming, we might just have a rare and, as a race, unique opportunity to get ahead of ourselves.
I’ll be exploring and expanding on this theme with posts in the next few weeks – and will update this post with cross links as I do so.
If you have any thoughts please feel free to share.