The Inevitable: A review

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The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

This is not a race against the machines. If we race against them, we lose. This is a race with the machines. You’ll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots. Ninety percent of your coworkers will be unseen machines.

Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable.

The rate of which technology progresses is almost doubling every year. Things that were previously considered impossible, or dangerous are now being part of our reality. Old business models will need to let new models replace the status quo. Entire occupations will disappear, and if we don’t find a way to accompany the dying systems so we can let new ones emerge, then its entire livelihoods will be at risk.

The lives and behaviours of future 2050s humans will be informed by the best technologies that will be produced in 2020. In 3 decades, they will look down at their wearable VR contact lenses, holographic avatars, AI interfaces, and say “you didn’t really have the internet back then!” The elders will be saying “can you imagine  how awesome it would be to be an innovator in 2016? It was a wide open frontier! You could almost pick some category, add some AI to it and put it on the cloud. People will respond “Oh if only I realised how possible things were back then” 

It is always the best time ever in human history to begin and make something new. You are not late! 

The Inevitable looks at the technological forces that are going to shape our future.  

1. Becoming

It’s the idea that everything evolves, changes, becomes… There is no real start, no ends, only a cycle of iterative and incremental changes upon which future technological life will be like a series of endless upgrades. 

With moving from fixed products to always upgrading services and subscriptions there is the idea that we will be endless beginners, trying to keep up with a constant discomfort to constant change. 

One will have to accept disruptions and let go so they can rather be in a learning mode all life-long to be able to use the most technological advances in the future.

2. Cognifying

Although artificial intelligence has been researched and developed for a number of decades, each discovery accelerates other disruptions. The best diagnostician will be AI. 

With making everything much smarter using cheap powerful AI that we get from the cloud, we will use AI as if it is electricity, water, or gas. It will be like plugging into the grid, so much that the next 10,000 start-ups will be about taking “X” and adding AI.

We are already seeing AI replacing jobs and functions, and it makes no sense to be kept apart. We should rather optimise the process of working with bots and machines. 

3. Flowing

Because the future will consist of perpetual upgrades, the flow of consumption will grow the on-demand services, and on-demand requires content to flow. 

It’s about discoverability, immediacy, personalisation, interpretations (from tangible to intangible), authenticity, easy access, patronage, embodiment, community, collaborations, trade and exchanges, etc. 

The first industry to switch to real-time was music, and now we have on-demand movies and series. It isn’t going to stop here, our future will depend on unstoppable real-time streams for pretty much everything.

4. Screening

As the technology improves, it becomes miniaturised, cheaper to produce, and easier to design with. They will be everywhere.

We see it already, places like Times Square in New-York city or in Tokyo. But we have also seen a multiplication of screens in our own household, TV, tablets, computers, smartphones, smart-watches, etc.

In 2050s, you might be able to play with the screen on your morning cereal. The screen will be able to read your emotions and react accordingly. Even buildings will be covered with screens, changing “looks” as often as they want to.

5. Accessing

Uber owns no cars, AirBnb owns no hotels, and Ali Baba owns no merchandise. Dematerialisation — the move from products to services, using less to do more — and decentralisation — smart connections between the many — are the mechanism by which accessing occurs.

We will be able to access anything, anytime and anywhere, it will remove the need for ownership, especially of intangibles. Accessing keeps us agile and open options.

We will see society shifting from one where we own assets to one where instead we will have access to services at all times.

6. Sharing

Talking about the notion of collaboration at mass scale, Kelly writes: “On my imaginary Sharing Metre Index we are still at 2 out of 10.”

Although the Internet democratised the acts of sharing, there is still much to do in order for the people to have the ability and the right to improve, personalise, or appropriate what is shared. 

Through cooperation, collaboration, openness (open source), transparency, and free access, people in the future will work free on cool projects that they are passionate about, collaboratively tinkering with new crowdfunding techniques will give equity for people in creating their own opportunities.

7. Filtering

Talking about the increasing availability of information, Kelly writes: “In a world of abundance, the scarcity is human attention”. 

Everything will be filtered to your tastes and your will, resurfacing curated content and information. The danger is about being rewarded with what you already like, to the point of becoming blind to anything different.

In 30 years, we will have ways to harness extreme personalisation in order to anticipate our desires.

8. Remixing

There is no remixing without dematerialisation, filtering, sharing, cognifying, flowing… All are needed for letting the ideas (bits are close to ideas) be remixed. 

In the future, people will have the ability to transform, improve, evolve, mutate, re-create something new from something existing, like fans writing the sequel of a fiction, having videos you can read and music you can watch, etc.

Co-creating, sharing patent and open-source contributes to the unbundling of existing products into their most primitive parts and then recombining in all possible ways.

9. Interacting

Whether it’s tangible artefacts or intangible technologies, interaction between humans and objects/machines are what creates the experience with a product or service.

As virtual and augmented reality technology gets better, they will be like wearing a second skin. The technology will be much closer and intimate, from wearables to implanted chips, and we will even be able to extend our senses beyond our body.

In the 2050s, anything will be possible in virtual setups. Over time our interactions will increase with more senses, intimacy, immersing ourselves inside our computers to maximise their engagement.

10. Tracking

Having timely, accurate and compelling information is important, and measuring or tracking things can be very useful to help respond to a change in the situation. 

Being able to track your blood pressure, variable heart rate, heart performance, oxygen level, temperature, skin conductance, 24/7/365 helps spot an imbalance and can propose targeted remedies. Tracking the landscape over time and seeing the effects of human civilization can help us realise the impact industries have on climate change.

In the future, we will be employing surveillance tracking of what matters for the benefit of citizens and consumers.

11. Questioning

The gap between questions and answers is our ignorance, and it is growing exponentially, because as the circle of my knowledge grows, the perimeter of my ignorance lengthens.

Smart technologies like machine-learning and AIs can already provide us with some answers to a lot of questions by fetching information available shared by the people. 

And as all the previous forces converge together in the next 3 decades, promoting good questions will be far more valuable than having good answers because: a good question is the seed of innovation, a good question may be the last job a machine will learn to do, and a good question is perhaps what humans are for.

12. Beginning

The specific brands or products that will surround us in 30 years are entirely unpredictable. But we perhaps can say that the course of technological progress will go in the same direction as it has for the last 30 years, toward increased flowing, sharing, tracking, accessing, interacting, screening, remixing, filtering, cognyfing, questions and becoming. 

What is undertaken is the construction of a planetary system connecting all humans and machines into harmony. In the future, people will envy us, the 2020s will be seen as the largest, most complex and most surprising event on the planet up until this time.

The Beginning, of course, is just beginning.

In a Sea-shell

Kevin Kelly has decades of experience in looking at technological advances and in seeing the impacts these have on the human situation. 

He is been extremely careful not to make detailed predictions, as no one can, but using the principle that the things that have been around for so long will probably still be relevant for at least as long as they have been around for, otherwise it means they have no value.

It is however extremely useful to notice these forces and play with them. 

We should push back on the bad these forces could bring with them and capitalise on the good, the beautiful, so that we can lift human civilisation and mother Earth toward a more desirable and sustainable future.