A warning for the post-augmented age.
We are moving:
From analog to augmented.
From flat screens to VR and AR.
From desktops to eye glasses.
From music played on instruments to music made on computers.
From centralized economies to decentralized crypto currencies.
From repetitive, boring, jobs to artificial intelligence smart jobs.
From human help to robotic help.
From call centers to bots.
From physical screens to virtualized ones.
From family newsletters to instant videos on a map in Snap.
From rotary phones to WeChat, Whats App, Snap, Facebook Messenger, with more on their way.
From neighborhood parties to NextDoor.
From Yellow Pages to Yelp.
From big speakers to subwoofers/haptics you wear.
From emotional intimacy to Twitter and Facebook.
From drugs you took as a pill to drugs we get through the light delivered via our screens.
From rockets we use once, to ones that land on a barge.
From rumors to deep data.
From inefficiency to smart cities.
From tractors to IoT and automation.
From incandescent light to LED.
From privacy to satellites that make a 3D image of the entire world every few minutes.
From terabytes of data to zetabytes.
From mass market to mass personalization.
From interruptive advertising to products that stand for something.
From SEO-influenced sales leads to sensor-influenced customer acquisition.
From pixels to polygons to voxels.
From books and libraries to Google Assistant.
The cultural shifts we are seeing happen in politics, music, photography and life itself are BECAUSE of our technology.
Remember when the electric guitar came? What happened? The 1960s music revolution. The Beatles. Elvis.
What is going on now? VR and AR are bringing new forms of entertainment like http://microdosevr.com/ No longer are we forced to stare at a flat monitor, or hold a flat screen in our hands, or go to a play where the action is on a rectangular stage.
We are moving to a world where photography, videography, are moving from grids of pixels to volumetric and then light field where we can live inside the video or stills. Ansel Adams had his hands in Dektol. We have our hands in Snapseed. Google Photo lets us find all of our photos by the objects in them.
We are moving from a world where taxis were not reliable to a world where Lyft, Didi, Uber and others serve us, deliver us, in a new way thanks to the data layers those laid on top of the analog world. Soon self driving cars will take us where we want to go and will be far cheaper, safer, and more reliable.
With these mind blowing technology shifts comes a blowback.
Turns out this is a LOT of change for humans to handle so we are seeing a blowback toward the analog. The old school. We’re seeing it in our politics. In much of the popularity of older musical forms from Jazz to Classical to Country (I’m going to Nashville in a few weeks to study this up close).
As we are dealing with AI potentially taking our jobs, not to mention maybe even humanity itself, and augmented reality adding new data layers onto everything we see and touch, there’s a hunger for meaning. Values. Virtues. Trust. Kindness.
Why is vinyl still popular in a world where we can pull up nearly every artist and every song on Spotify and other services? It’s analog. It is a blowback to an earlier age where life was simpler. Not as busy. Not as connected.
Even though we can pull up nearly every song on Spotify (and its artificial intelligence is getting damn amazing in picking new music for us to hear) we hunger for the smooth wave of analog.
As we augment our stores (Sephora lets you try virtual makeup on in its augmented reality app, and see augmented displays in the stores) we hunger for a time when customer service was a real human that knew us well. Even in the augmented age we’ll seek products and services that demonstrate compatibility with our intentionality. Our intentions not to use child labor, or poisons in our food, or weird genetic modifications that might lead to new environmental or health distress. We’ll seek products that stand for something. Help someone. Make the world a little bit better, or, at least, don’t add to the distress we see all around us.
As we get self driving cars, which will save many lives and remove the dull commutes we increasingly have to do around the world, stuck in traffic, we hunger for that mechanical age when we knew how our machines worked and didn’t have nightmares of being hacked. Driving an old Chevy to the levy starts to sound more and more romantic even as our new Chevy drives itself to the same levy.
Your brand and company must not just react to these shifts, but get ahead of them to really thrive in this post-augmented age.
To navigate the cultural changes that we are in early phases of seeing and will roil us all for the next decade or more you need to think different. Communicate differently. Play differently. Work differently.
How? Let’s talk but first I will go live in the analog. We used to call that vacation.
Oh and when I get back in 10 days I will start up my newsletter again and other changes are coming too.
The photo is one I made at Old Jameson Distillery distillery in Ireland. There you see the juxtaposition of the old (the truck) with its new LEED-certified distillery in the background.