Beyond Mobile And Multi-Screens: What’s Next?

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:
      • initially for health monitoring and maintenance (e.g. blood sugar & blood pressure: monitoring, analysis, alerts, preemptive advice)
      • then increasingly to enhance performance (e.g. memory,  well being  analysissituation awareness etc.)
  • 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”

― Miles Davis

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.

Minds Connected

I guess like most of us, I’m increasingly consuming media (books, videos, music) simultaneously in batches which creates a sort of blended content cocktail of juxtaposed ideas. For example I’m currently reading books by Noam Chomsky, Andrew Keen, Seth Godin and Charles Dickens.

The interesting part comes when I have quiet, free thinking time and I find myself pondering the contents of all the content that I’m consuming together as one input; identifying salient points, counter points, contradictions and connections between the works (more on these books as thought bubbles surface).

So last night I watched a couple of videos and fittingly the connection is: minds connecting

Yesterday a friend posted the following video of Hedy Schleifer at last months TEDxTelAviv conference. Deeply experienced in helping people with their relationships, she discusses the way that humans connect, and mis-connect, at a sub-conscious level. She explains three invisible connectors: The relational Space – the space between two individuals. The bridge between these worlds – over and through the relational space. The encounter “human essence to human essence” – a pure interaction between our true selves.

The Power of Connection – Hedy Schleifer at TEDxTelAviv

Although this all initially sounded a little “California wellness” (to my cynical English ears) this is, in fact, a fantastic talk. Hedy grounds her talk in recent NeuroScience theories of “the Brain Bridge” where “two limbic systems resonate together” and the discovery of mirror neurons. This biological mechanism creates fundamental and core common human traits enabling “Compassion, empathy and deep understanding of the other”. A wonderful example of psychological observation joining seamlessly with our advancing (although still very rudimentary) biological understanding of how the mind works (check out the work of the Social Brain Lab for more info).

Mirror neurons fire in unison when two minds are in unison, or connected at a “human essence” level as Hedy puts it. New neural pathways are created, the relationship blooms and individual consciousness is raised. What stops this happening is either mind subconsciously cluttering the “relational space” with preconceptions, fears and anxieties – which amplify over time. The solution is to seek to build an empathetic bridge between “our true selves”. It is “in truly being with each other that our true essence becomes revealed” to ourselves and others. If we focus on connection and understanding, relationships and people blossom. Note: a “like” on FB is in no way a true and deep connection.

Last night I also chanced upon Don Tapscotts excellent talk at 2012 TEDGlobal, which was released yesterday. Don explains his thinking about the 4 principles of the Open World that are “transforming civilisation”: Collaboration “social media becoming social production”; Transparency “sunlight is the best disinfectant”; Sharing – “giving up assets” & impending changes to the way intellectual property works; Empowerment – “The distribution of knowledge & decentralisation of power”.

Don Tapscott: Four principles for the open world

For me the most interesting part of the talk starts at around the 12 mins 30 second point. Don summaries the way that humanity’s method of sharing information has evolved at two critical points: the onset of the printing press and then of the Internet. Before the printing press, distribution of knowledge was hand written, strictly limited and closely guarded by a fraction of a percent of humanity. The arrival of the printing press provided a mechanism for mass distribution, however it was still a one-way transfer of heavily edited and curated knowledge, from the powerful to the “great unwashed” masses. It culminated in the Industrial world order of the 20th Century.

It should, by now, be becoming clear to just about everyone, that this new Internet age journey that we’re all embarking on, marks a seismic transformation in how humanity will develop and grow.

For the first time the Internet enables all of humanity to create, share and re-create knowledge. Instead of simply calling it the Internet or information age Don refers to this as an “Age of Networked Intelligence” where he hopes there will be a recognition that all our “interests lie with the collective” the growth and well being of all rather than just a few. He wonders if we could create some kind of “collective consciousness in the world”. He finishes with a video of Starlings in “Murmuration” (original clip is shown below) where they collaborate in a kind of subconscious communal flow to fend off predators, share food sources, find a roosting area etc. I love the fact that it involves simple and small birds, the last descendants of the Dinosaurs with whom, however, we humans share a similar central “lizard” brain. Maybe this behavior is innate to us all?

Amazing starlings murmuration

So what’s the connection?

Well, this reference to an “age of networked intelligence” struck a chord for me with Hedy’s talk.

On the one hand humanity is now on the cusp of understanding the biological mechanics of the mind and discovering how empathy, sharing and the growth of joined consciousnesses work at an individual, biological level.

Simultaneously, with the Internet we’re rapidly building, populating and evolving the physical infrastructure that will enable an embryonic, real-time, collective human intelligence.

In the next decade, with most of our planets people gaining internet access for the first time via smart-phones, this will evolve to become a global collective intelligence for all humanity.

This raises huge questions for individuals, societies and Industrial era organisations that we are only just starting to grapple with, let alone find answers for.

This is surely the most important issue of our time. If we all get it right, many of our current, industrial era, ills will dissolve like ice cubes in the sun. If we get it wrong, it could all go very wrong indeed. Most probably through authoritairan countermoves to protect the industrial, top-down, status quo. It starts with the curated group-think (an example being heavily opinionated and polarised news media) and explicit emotional contagion.

What is certain, is that how we all chose to build and grow this collective intelligence will effect the next eon of human development.

Remembering every individuals need for personal interconnection, for real and deep relationships and for common understanding will allow people, and our nascent collective intelligence, to grow and blossom.

It’s certainly a good place for each of us to start.