Depending on your personality or your personal situation, the future is either a source of excitement and the cause for anxiety. Either way it rarely leaves anyone indifferent. For businesses, it comes loaded with implications, particularly if they need to be ready to react to rapid changes. No strategy has ever been conceived with eyes only focused on the past.
Knowing the future has been a human quest for as long as they have walked the Earth. Yet few people can claim to truthfully have the answer. With science, though, we seem to become better at detecting trends and predicting certain elements of this evolution.
Evolution is a key concept because the roots of the future have been laid in both our past and our present. It’s clear that several aspects of our lives are evolving more and more rapidly, largely thanks to or because of technological developments. There is evidence that our brains are being rewired as the result of the use of modern media, particularly among teens.
So what else is evolving without us noticing? What else should we be paying attention to, if only we were aware of it? To take stock of the situation, to absorb the latest technological and research developments and consider their implications for mankind as well as corporations, it takes a wonderjunkie obsessed with the co-evolution of human and technology like Jason Silva. Media personality, futurist, philosopher and filmmaker, he has turned technology and science into an art form. Having studied many of the most important trends in technology, he has created a YouTube channel, Shots of Awe, where he shares his inspirational films about creativity and the future. Many will know him for Brain Games, the National Geographic hit show about the workings of the human mind that he hosts.
Silva is a natural born communicator who discusses tricky and technical subjects with ease. He talks of a future driven by developments in genetics, nanotechnology and robotics (or artificial intelligence), known simply as GNR. Computing power will fuel this triple revolution and allow us to create artificial neurons. Moore’s Law, formulated by the co-founder of Intel Gordon Moore, states that the number of transistors in a computer chip will roughly double every two years, meaning that with miniaturisation, the computing power in a mobile phone will be over two billion times greater in 60 years’ time than it is today. A computer the size of a blood cell could be millions of times more powerful than today’s supercomputers.
Futurologist Ray Kurzweil also predicts that GNR will create fundamental changes in humanity. He created the metaphor of the “singularity”, that moment in time, which could be just a few decades away, when machines become intelligent enough to develop their own consciousness and start designing their own machines. This will be a decisive rupture with the rest of human history, with implications that we can only begin to imagine. Spike Jonze’s film Her, where people have intimate relationships with computer programmes, is one vision of this. This may sound like science fiction but it seemed serious enough to Google, which hired Kurzweil as its head of engineering.
It’s not just about the left-brain, though, and Silva also believes that creativity will be at the heart of this revolution. Artists will use the technology to express our human culture in new terms. Physicist Freeman Dyson once declared “a new generation of artists will be writing genomes with the fluency that Blake and Byron wrote verses.”
The future will, of course, be an incredible time for marketing and advertising as we move from a world of genes – competing for mates – to the world of memes, Richard Dawkins’ concept of ideas evolving and fighting for attention.
Silva enthused audiences at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival, at the invitation of PHD. Under the title of Reboot, he took them on a 40 year journey in 40 minutes to a place where technology has advanced far beyond what we can conceive today and biotechnology and genetics have become growing areas for development. He asked us to re-evaluate the way we look at the world in preparation for the coming transformation of our consciousness.
This was and is not about future gazing for the sake of it. Looking to the future helps us better understand the developments that are happening today. When Twitter launched in 2007, many of us thought it was just a glorified form of text messaging because we interpreted it in terms of the technology of the past. Little did we realise that it was the start of a completely new form of communication – micro-blogging and live storytelling.
Having a vision of the future will help us make better strategic decisions today. Look, for instance, at wearable technology such as Fitbit, Jawbone, Google Glass and Samsung Galaxy watches. We need to consider where this new wearable tech will go in a few years’ time. Will it become a medical sensor that tells us if we are about to get seriously ill? Will it develop the ability to tap into our brain waves and read our emotions, perhaps helping to cheer us up?
Silva believes that ultimately, we will be able to engineer our consciousness through the GNR revolution. This could lead to a world where we hire extra neurons to improve our cognitive power. Our minds are restricted by the fact we have 100 billion neurons. In future, we will be able to rent out extra neurons to expand our mental capacity.
This can seem far-fetched but look back at today’s world through the eyes of your own grandparents at your age. Listening to the vision of futurologists such as Jason Silva can help us picture where these technologies are heading and consider what future they bring to every one of us, as individuals and as companies.
Futurologists like Silva help us walk on a clearer path and allow us to explore possible futures thanks to the advance knowledge they provide. Technology is at the heart of human evolution today, just look at soldiers injured in battle who are already being fitted with mind-controlled bionic limbs. The limits of the past will no longer hold us back. To get a grip on how such developments are shaping the present, it is worth tuning in to Silva’s vision of the future to give your thinking a reboot.