This is the new battle for the human interface.

[Originally written for IEEE, modified here.]

There’s something about human nature that often fails to see the future when it arrives. The big, exciting, and scary scenarios lumbering on the horizon become practical and even banal once they’re wrapped around us. Right now we’re talking to objects in our homes that recognize our voices, understand our questions, model our behaviors, and even predict our needs while communicating across vast networks of machines, computers, and distant humans. …

[Excerpts from a talk I recently gave. There’s a lot of change washing over media companies. Here I highlight a couple fundamentals: web giants colonizing the living room, and the value and risk of data-driven business.]

The media landscape continues to undergo dramatic shifts driven by digital transformation. Those that are quick to make the shift are establishing competitive advantages over slower rivals. As we might expect, old media incumbents are being outpaced by younger, web-native and data-driven players.

This has serious implication for how businesses grow and how the rest of us trade the details of our lives for…

“Chaos is a ladder.”

- Lord Petyr Baelish

In a world fundamentally shaped and held together by digital networks, programmable media is a very potent weapon.

Vladislav Surkov is a fascinating figure credited with staffing and directing Ukraine’s separatists and architecting the annexation of Crimea. As a former cabinet member and current adviser to President Putin he represents a new generation of postmodern geopolitics (for lack of a better term) that skewers pretty much everything that the 20th century was built upon.

Wars aren’t fought to win but rather to confuse. There are reasons to back both dissident political parties and ultra-nationalist Nazis. Information is more powerful than weapons. Everything is PR, even science fiction. …

[A modified version of this article has been published on Foreign Policy.]

Following an earlier 2017 survey, Foreign Policy has opened another poll to assess the likelihood of a second US Civil War. However, framing it as a second civil war embeds numerous assumptions about warfare on US soil that are based more on history than the current reality of how power acts in the world. The distinction is critical to effectively counter the emergence of networked violence in America.

With this framing we imagine a second civil war might proceed like the first: two institutionalized factions wielding state militaries…

(Image from Chris Stephenson, head of strategy and planning, APAC)

Cities and companies are increasingly deploying networks, sensors, and data systems with hopes of greater optimization, security, and economic growth. From ubiquitous CCTV networks, instrumented utilities, and police body cameras to identity-based transit cards, public & private wifi, and a rich tapestry of location-based services, the urban landscape is being woven with pervasive measurement, recognition, and modeling.

The platforms are surrounding us with their eyes and ears…

The same pattern is unfolding across well-heeled businesses that are instrumenting their supply chains, logistics, facilities, and operational teams, bolting on machine learning to drive efficiencies and competitive advantage.

Uber has an extraordinarily…

Shiny sparkly hyper-futures always turn people off. This looks like the childless home of an Alpha class in Gattaca.

The Smart Home is still a young category but it reflects deep currents of digitization, connectivity, efficiency, & security. It’s also a long game for platform leaders to further colonize the home. More interestingly, it may be a necessary response to our emerging climate crises. Yet, as the category matures there are large challenges in establishing trust and value.

Although we seem to be moving towards a future of intelligent structures that are aware of their inhabitants and actively model and manage their needs and the physical needs of the house, the comprehensive promise of the smart home is yet to be realized and will likely take a decade before asserting any meaningful presence.

The market

Analysts estimate that by 2020 the market will be worth between $50B and $150B — a pretty wide spread that now includes things like wifi speakers and Alexa voice assistants but mostly falls short of integrated home management systems. A wifi speaker that…

[Putting on my corporate analyst hat…]

Logistics leaders are beginning to capitalize on the immense amounts of data generated by their cyber-physical systems. With artificial intelligence they’re finding greater efficiencies, higher performance, more sophisticated network orchestration, and more accurate demand forecasts.

Logistics is an enormous industry that has wrapped a complex network around the planet. Revenues are estimated at $8 trillion and are expected to grow to $15.5 trillion by 2024. At the same time, IDC forecasts global spending on artificial intelligence will grow to $47B by 2020 — a %55 CAGR. …

Andy Clark / Reuters / The Atlantic

The world heaved under the sudden weight of its own nervous system. Lit up and lashed to the planet in only a few decades, we lost our bearings in the paradox of connectivity: minute detail of every moment yet removed from any tangible presence, our animal bandwidth compressed to sound and vision, crowded and alone.

We got connected and it’s terrifying. Direct confrontation with The Other. Massive social relativism. A fractal collage of affinity networks and sub genres and Things That Seem Really Different. Nature red in tooth and claw, in full glorious monstrosity. …

Human labor may decouple from global supply chains but it won’t abandon regional and local productivity.

“You’re thinking of this as you’ll take an existing product and add some AI to it. That’s not what we’re seeing. What we’re seeing is an entirely new kind of product that wasn’t possible before.” Marc Andreessen

“Just as mechanical muscles made human labor less in demand, so are mechanical minds making human brain labor less in demand.”Humans Need Not Apply

There’s a long-wave macro trend that’s been removing as many inefficiencies as possible from large-scale economic structures like supply chains, logistics platforms, and banking networks. …

When it’s busy like this the viz sometimes shifts like the color bleed you used to see on those old Sunday comics, way back in the day. Ubiquitous fiber pipes & wide-band wireless still can’t give enough bandwidth to the teeming multitudes downtown. The viz starts to lag, gets offset and even orphaned from the hard world it’s trying to be a part of. Hyperclear Ray Ban augments, lenses ground down by hand-sequenced rock algaes to such an impossibly smooth uniformity, run through with transparent circuity & bloodied rare-earth elements, scanning the world in multiple dimensions, pinging the cloud at…

chris arkenberg

Research, forecast, & strategy. Tech, new media, and complex systems in a networked world.

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