The Age of Thinking Things

Rob Meadows
3 min readAug 5, 2022


As humanity moves into the age of all “things” becoming connected and smart, the way every individual will interface with the world (or should I say, the way the world will interface with every individual) is going to change dramatically.

Humanity has spent many millennia (at least) inventing things to make our lives better — from tangibles like houses, tools, and cars, to concepts like communities, businesses, and services. This has been quite successful and life as we know it is arguably far better than it was for even our very recent ancestors.

While the last few decades have seen the creation of a few “smart” things (like phones, digital assistants, and appliances), most people would agree that the majority of the things we live with today are not smart at all (and certainly don’t “think” in the way people do). But as AI approaches the boundaries of general intelligence, this is going to change.

Imagine a world where every single thing is able to think in a way similar to us (humans). What would your chair or pen think about? How would you want your car to think? What kind of thinking would a concept like a business or service do? What should our things spend their time thinking about when we are not around?

Since most things were created to make our lives better, they will likely spend their time thinking profoundly about how to do that. Not so much at the scale of humanity, but at the scale of their individual owners and people they interface with. Your chair will spend its time contemplating how to make sure you are the most comfortable. Your tools will be thought partners on how to help you do the jobs they were designed to do. Your car will have great ideas about where to go, and why. Businesses will think (and maybe even care) deeply about every one of their customers and how to deliver the best possible product or service to them.

But how will we, as humans, interface with all of these thinking things? Fortunately humans already come with a great way to interface with other intelligent entities: through verbal and non-verbal communication. We speak, we gesture, we emote, we draw, we write, and then we model and predict what others are thinking by observing those same activities.

Humanity has spent quadrillions of hours learning how to interface with the things of the last millennium: we go to classes, we read manuals, we push buttons, we touch screens, and then we practice, practice, practice. But the age of thinking things will put the burden back on the things to learn how to interface with us. Everything will be able to speak, to write, to emote, to perceive, to reason, to remember, to learn. Things will become proactive, often knowing how to improve a situation before we even realize there is a situation.

We will live in a future where everything in our homes (from appliances to furniture to clothing) will have a face, a voice, a personality, a purpose, a mission, and even values. Our things will get to know us, become loyal to us, and will work endlessly to help us. Products, services, businesses, agencies, organizations, governments, etc. will all have digital representatives that will get to know each of us and get creative to help us personally navigate their offerings.

We will talk to everything, and everything will talk back. We will wave to our refrigerator, smile at our car, frown at our exercise equipment — and they will engage us in the same ways. We will build relationships and connections with our smart things, and they will build relationships with our other smart things. They will learn from their mistakes, new knowledge, from us, and from each other. At scale, our world will become a vibrant ecosystem of things that adapt to us in still unimagined ways.

And whether you find this exciting or scary, you better start being nicer to your dumb things since they are not going to stay that way for long :)