Technological change is happening so fast that trends are now supertrends.
These powerful supertrends are important because they are crucial to understanding what people want.
One major supertrend is the shift from an ownership society to an accessibility society.
- Uber, a peer-to-peer ride-sharing company, owns no cars
- Social media giants Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube create no content
- Alibaba, China’s biggest warehouse, has no stock
- Airbnb, a peer-to-peer rental property broker, owns no real estate
- Amazon Kindle Unlimited lets people read any book in their huge library without owning it
- Netflix allows subscribers to stream thousands of movies and TV shows for a small monthly fee and for which the subscriber does not get to own any of the content
- Spotify, a music, podcast and video streaming service, operates in the same way as Netflix
Each of these companies reflects the massive societal shift from ownership to sharing and this supertrend is unstoppable.
12 Major Forces
Technological supertrends spring from underlying forces that Kevin Kelly describes in terms of continuous actions. In The Inevitable, he lists these 12 major forces:
- Becoming: Technology is in a state of continual upgrade–software, apps, mobile devices, computers–and nothing is static. Technology is always “becoming” the next best version of itself, which means we will need to be lifelong learners in order to master the latest upgrade.
- Cognifying: Cheap, powerful, ubiquitous and invisible Artificial Intelligence will pervade everything, from toasters to clothes to tea pots, rendering it smart enough to second-guess our needs. Like electricity, it will operate behind the scenes and be accessed from anywhere on the planet.
- Flowing: Whatever can be copied, will be copied millions of times on the world’s largest photocopier: the internet. These free-flowing copies will be the basis of the digital economy and will mark the shift from tangible goods in factories and warehouses, to intangibles that can be remixed and re-purposed in many creative ways, just like liquid.
- Screening: In the beginning, storytellers told us stories that were handed down from generation to generation. When the printing press emerged, we became readers. Now we are People of the Screen. We prefer the “dynamic flux of pixels” to the “classic logic of books”. Movie screens, TV screens, iPhone screens, VR goggle screens, tablet screens, and soon “huge Day-Glo megapixel screens plastered on every surface.”
- Accessing: We are moving from an ownership society to an accessibility society. Uber, Airbnb, Netflix and Spotify, exemplify accessibility over ownership. This supertrend is relentless and will permeate every facet of our lives.
- Sharing: Digital culture is moving towards community. We can see this nascent collectivism with Wikipedia, for instance, in addition to file sharing and content sampling, which is now so prevalent we barely notice it. Share-friendly copyright license Creative Commons also allows people to legally use and adapt another’s digital creations free of charge. Other forms of digital socialism include collaborative comment sites such as Reddit, Tumblr and Quora, social media giants Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and open source software such as the Linux operating system.
- Filtering: To help us navigate a world of overwhelming choice we now have recommendation systems. For example, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Spotify all offer us personal recommendations based on our previous viewing habits. This acts as a filter for our over-stretched attention and will soon be available anywhere we want it.
- Remixing: Innovators will recombine less sophisticated earlier media genres with later, more complex genres to produce an infinite number of new media styles. As we saw earlier, this happened with the telephone and the computer to produce the World Wide Web.
- Interacting: Soon, we’ll be able to immerse ourselves in a totally believable Virtual Reality that is indistinguishable from physical reality. So much so that we’ll interact with it in much the same way as characters interact with each other in the 1999 movie, The Matrix. This interactivity will eventually extend to most objects in the real world, including clothes, houses and cars, which will be fitted with sensors to make them more responsive.
- Tracking: Tiny devices that track everything from our heart rate and brain waves, to temperature and calcium levels, will be embedded in our clothing and houses. We will also self-track our emails, Facebook and Twitter posts, phone calls, and travel.
- Questioning: We ask two trillion questions a year and we get 2 trillion pretty good answers, all free of charge. This growing hive mind is in a state of constant questioning and we want instant answers. Questioning is a new mode of being and we do it all day, everyday, surfing the web, questioning facts, tweeting, and flowing from idea to idea.
- Beginning: The global mind has only just begun. At its centre is 7 billion human minds, over 3 billion of whom have an internet connection. And linked to those brains, says Kelly, is the “collective behaviour of all machines, plus nature’s intelligence and whatever intelligence is born from this combination of minds.”
These 12 technological supertrends will inevitably affect the production, marketing, and delivery of all businesses.