Cognifying, Filtering, and a Technological Explosion

Author: Chandra Taylor, Senior Business Student at the University of Montana

It is almost 2017 and I am almost done with college, this requires a little bit of forward thinking, doesn’t it? As a potential marketer in the future I wanted to look into the future and talk about a couple of the trends that I think will be coming down the road within the next 3–5 years, or maybe even 10 years from now. It is kind of hard to guess what is going to happen, but one thing is for sure, everything is changing and changing fast.

I used a multitude of sources whose links are located at the bottom of the post and a book titled “The Inevitable” written by Kevin Kelley. Throughout this post you will find three different trends that I think have a high possibility of occurring sooner rather than later. The first trend of cognifying products basically represents the idea of making products smarter through adding AI to any regular product, a quick example is creating a smart thermostat that works through an app on your smartphone. The second trend that I found is the filtering of information more and more as information becomes more readily available. Even with today’s internet I know I can’t keep up with everything that is going on, but I also know that I don’t want to see everything that is going on. The idea of filtering is meant to only focus on what we want to see and customize our products the way that we want to. And the third and final trend that I focused on for this post is that we are going to slowly start implementing technology into most products so that they can interact together. A good example of that is your smart self-driving car being able to monitor traffic and change its route to work depending. I think overall these trends have a good chance of happening at some point in the near future and that we haven’t even started thinking about the possibilities that they will bring with them.

Trend 1: Cognifying products

Cognifying according to Kevin Kelly means to describe the act of making something smarter, as in adding AI to it. This idea of adding AI to normal everyday items is very useful in today’s world. In the last couple of years many different regular items are being cognified to create quicker, more useful items. One of the best examples today is the idea of creating a smart house, or adding AI to a regular house. This is happening more and more every day through creating thermostats, security systems, and even house lights that all work just by using an application on your smartphone. I think as our world transitions away from the information era, we will see a major increase in cognified items and when this happens we will see a massive need for simplistic, yet complex products.

I think a couple companies that will help start this trend of cognifying include both Tesla (Elon Musk) and Amazon (Jeff Bezos). Both of these companies are creating and coming up with items every day that are continuing to inspire and lead the world in innovation. Elon Musk is dedicated to being a catalyzing force for progress on climate change and is very stuck on instigating a market-based solution for this issue. I think we will continue to see major products come from Musk that will change the way we think about emission free products. As of right now, Elon Musk claims that they will have a self-driving car that can drive itself across the entire country as soon as 2018, pretty exciting right?

When it comes to Jeff Bezos and Amazon, there is nothing but gold coming from that company right now. The most current thing that I have seen is the business model evolution of our traditional grocery stores. Amazon’s newest grocery store model has no check-out lines and is solely based off of your smartphone for payment. The store uses what Amazon calls their “Just Walk Out Technology” that allows consumers to log in through a turnstile on their way in and literally walk out of the store with their groceries without waiting in lines. This idea of the check-out free grocery store helps me support the idea that one day the United States will be almost cash free with cellphones and credit/debit cards being the only way businesses will accept payment. It is fair to say that this probably won’t happen anytime soon, but at least within the next 30–50 years. I think that Amazon is one of the leaders today in cognifying items that would have never before had any artificial intelligence in them. My biggest example for Amazon is Alexa their hands-free speaker. Alexa is paving her way into helping create a smarter house that responds to almost any command at the sound of your voice.

As products are cognified and created smarter over the next 5–10 years I think we will see a shift away from simple products to more complex products that have a simple interface. This could be as simple as Alexa and how she is voice-enabled. With complex products that seem simple there is a very real idea that creation will become more difficult to please everyone. And also, any product that presents ease of use and speed will triumph over most other cognified products.

To summarize, the first trend that I see emerging within the next 5–10 years will be a significant increase in cognified items. These items will be complex items that have a simple interface due to demand. Ease of use and speed will also be very important product features. Amazon and Tesla will lead this trend with them already cognifying items that have never before had AI features. Amazon is using this currently with their new grocery store model and Tesla is currently working hard to create a self-driving car that can traverse the United States no matter the terrain. It is easy to see that this trend will continue, but what will it create? Smart cereal boxes? Smart headphones? The opportunities are endless.

Trend 2: Information will become more and more filtered until all you see is what you want to see

The idea of filtering information is already a reality for some things such as news pages, social media feeds, music playlists, and even television channels, but what if we were able to customize any item that you use daily? The best example of customization that I deem interesting enough for the future is one that Kevin Kelly wrote about in The Inevitable. Kelly writes “I have a pill-making machine in my kitchen” where “[e]very day the machine mixes the right doses of all the powders and stuffs them all into a single personalized pill”. Imagine that, your doctor gives you a biological tracker that senses your vitals and decides what exact amount of each vitamin would help your body the most on that specific day. Sort of amazing, right? This could become a reality for almost every product one day. The products would be specifically customized to your needs in almost all categories.

The first thing that I think will need to happen in order for this trend to take off, is that people will have to become idea machines. This meaning that they will have to imagine products that we have never even thought about. Once we have ideas then we will have to take a serious look into how important chemistry is for IT advances. Even Elon Musk is building a billion-dollar factory to create better batteries which will require the use of chemistry. If you look back as far as farming, you may slowly realize that chemistry is the only reason we are no longer spending all of our time on a field. With more and more customized products, we will need better IT advances which comes more from chemistry advances than it does from IT people. With all of these new ideas floating around and advances in chemistry that allow for better IT technologies there will be a great market opening for customizable products. A couple of the best examples are clothing, cars, and media. Imagine a life where you buy clothes online using a virtual reality avatar to try them on or where your car picks you up, analyzes traffic and takes you to work using the most convenient route!

Once we have the ideas and the technology then everything in this world can be tailored to your preferences, the only thing the consumer has to do is let the filters know your preferences. The biggest downfall I see to letting the filters know everything about you is that then cyber security can be astronomically expensive! The peace of mind to not be stalked or hacked would most likely not come cheap. Also from the marketers standpoint there would be both good implications as well as negative implications. The good implications would be that the people you end up marketing to would already want to see your product, likely increasing both the attention that they devote to your promotion as well as increasing their likeliness to purchase the product. The negative implications though would be that getting new customers or more attention would become more and more difficult the more people that filter out unwanted things from their lives. This would make it difficult to get customers that filter out your product even if they didn’t like it years ago and would probably like it now. I think this would overall increase the validity of word of mouth referrals for consumers because without changing their settings they would probably not see your product or promotions.

Overall, the second trend that I see happening within the next decade or so is the idea of filtering information, well at least more filtering than we are currently doing. Instead of being able to only filter your Facebook newsfeed and your TV channels, you will be able to filter/customize the most daily activity items such as your daily vitamins, your television commercials (if television is still even around), or even your clothes online through a VR headset. It almost seems science fiction to think about this stuff right now, but it is all very close to being a reality.

Trend 3: Technology is going to explode into everything, figuratively of course

As the ability to create better technology is advanced, humans will find a way to incorporate it more and more into their daily lives. As Kevin Kelley puts it, “the dumbest objects we can imagine today can be vastly improved by outfitting them with sensors and making them interactive.” We have already seen this with things such as thermostats, home security, and even other technologies such as drones and virtual reality. This trend will continue to develop with better technology and will end up improving many different aspects of life.

The first thing that I think can improve through interacting with technology is the world of medicine. In the near future DNA will be able to be decoded with little to no effort and with that advancement we will soon be able to conquer genetic editing which has many positive implications on fixing what are known today as genetic defects. There would also be huge possibilities for virtual reality to help with training in the medical field for things such as surgical training or even simple things such as training for IVs. The best part is that with the virtual reality training the medical students can train more in different situations which can increase their graduation preparedness and therefore help create a better overall product/service for patients everywhere. One thing that Kelley points out in The Inevitable is that with interaction between technology and the human body, we can not only improve the lives of blind and deaf people, but also in the future there is a good chance that everybody will want to interact themselves with technology. This can be seen one day soon in the video game world, the world of traveling, or even the world of business.

I think it is worth noting that when we start talking about implementing technology into a lot of the products of the future then it is safe to say that those new products will be able to interact with each other. This creates almost a network effect off all the things in the world, kind of scary, right? It doesn’t have to be all scary though, think if your smart car talked to your smart thermometer and your heater in your house turned on 15 minutes before you got home so you efficiently didn’t waste more energy than you needed to? Or your smart clothes could “talk” to your smart washing machine and explicit how it wants to be washed? Or by the click of a button you could see what food you have in your fridge and with a second click, order any food that you want that week to be delivered by drone the next morning? These all sound like awesome ways that things can be interacting together to create a better, easier way of life.

In the future it is fairly inevitable to not have everything connected to the internet that can be connected to the internet, I think there are tons of upsides to have an interconnected world, many that we haven’t even realized yet. The possibilities are basically endless, from training with VR for any medical field position to giving a blind person sight through a “Sensory Substitution Vest.” Creating a world with interactive objects basically creates a world where everything is on a network and it works to make your life as easy as possible while virtual reality can literally bring your imagination to life.

Now that we have looked at three different trends that I think will happen in the fairly near future, what do you think? Are you scared, excited, or worried? Well I am kind of scared but also fairly excited! The future is going to be a cool place, hopefully with the idea of a sharing economy I will be able to afford all of the fancy things that are being developed right now. I don’t know about you but I sure am ready for a self-driving car that can take me on road trips while I sit back and watch out the window or for a smart house that knows when to turn on the heat before I get home or a pill making machine that creates a personalized pill for my everyday vitamin needs. The only thing we can do now is wait and see if these trends happen and how soon they happen, maybe I can come back to my post in 10 years and write a new one about what will happen 20 years from now. All I know for sure is that the world is changing and with me graduating college extremely soon, I need to be prepared for whatever it has in store.

I have one question for you though; are you ready?