Til tech do us part.

by Brian Rigazzi

Another speculative future essay. Run, run away!

As the grown up version of the kid raised on sci-fi content of all kinds, it’s an amazing time to be alive. Science fiction is becoming less fiction and more actual science, while the idea of reality is becoming more malleable than we ever imagined. And speaking of imagination, the distance between it and reality is rapidly decreasing for people everywhere. The world is this👌🏽 close to becoming actual magic.

I’m a Designer with an Anthropology background in this brave new world of advertising (Oh no I did a bad! I said I’m in advertising!) I find myself constantly wondering about this distance between imagination and reality, and how it affects the cultures and people I’m communicating with. I have broad, simple questions but no answers. Please, stop reading if you’re lookin’ for answers. All I can do is point at things on the horizon and with a confused look on my face ask “Is that…what I think it is??”

The human-centered design thinking that IDEO kickstarted back in the early ’90s is starting to become the MO of basically…everyone. This is in no small part thanks to social media and that shrinking distance between imagination and reality I mentioned above. I bring it up again because in that shrinking distance lives the tribe of imaginative purity whose name rhymes with ahmadvertising.

Welcome to the party, Aaaaadvertising! You’re a little late to the game but everyone’s starting to talk to people as if they were…you know, people. Yeah, your ’70s loudspeaker fizzled out and now they can talk back to you — but it’s ok! It’s called “conversation.” And now, it’s better than ever. As Mike Monteiro said on the bird website Twitter, “Feedback is a gift.” And shit, we’re getting so many gifts that each post is xxxmas. Straight from the source’s mouth without the soft cushion of our guided consumer research to guard our gift-feelings.

And it kind of hurts because it’s happened SO fast. Like thinking you could still do a good cartwheel without stretching. Social media is becoming everything so fast that we don’t even need to qualify media with “social” anymore, this is where we’re at — this is our modern media culture.

How did it get like this? How did we become so well…gifted? And where is it all going?

I think I see something on the horizon! What I think I see is the tectonic plates of culture gearing up for a real banger of a quake. A cultural shift that’s going to knock everyone on their asses. And none of us is ready for it. But like @WinstonChurchill said “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”

Looking Back

Today all media is basically social-everything. Ten years ago social wasn’t even a blip on the radar. What happened 10 years ago? Oooooh yeeeaah! The motherfuckin iPhone. Cue music — Untss untss untss BRRRAAAAA chaahdjnfosvdnskvsv!

So let’s use this stroke of insight and do a little armchair historical wiki-research on the correlation of tech adoption rates with massive cultural shifts and human advancement.

U.S. tech adoption rates for the last 100 years.

Can we accept Wikipedia for vague observations about human adoption of technology in a Medium article?? No? Ok good. Here goes:

  1. The first tool, the hand axe, took around 1.3 million years to be widely distributed.
  2. The wheel took approximately 5,000 years to be distributed.
  3. The printing press spread relatively fast (adoption period 1450 to the end of 19th Century, ~400 years).
  4. The automobile (period of 30 years).
  5. Your personal tracking device (period of 10 years).

Let’s dice up number five real quick. The first device to mix phone and computer technology was patented in 1974 and took over 18 years for it to be brought to market in 1992. Whereas Project Purple 2 began development in 2005 and was released as the iPhone 1 in 2007. Two years. That’s a difference of 15 years in the evolutionary cycle.

This is the progress being made in just one industry. But these types of advancements are happening on all fronts.

Imagine something spiritual sounding.

Back to the…Now

So things are getting made and being distributed faster, what now?

Keep your head in the clouds and your ear to the ground. Tracking trends is great for our immediate understanding and survival, but they are passing waves.

We have to look out for earthquakes — by scoping out the tectonic plates of technology and culture to see what’s coming next. Cause shit is about to get crazy shakey.

Tech constraints on media are loosening to the point that soon everyone with a smartphone is going to have broadband in their pocket. Gone will be the days of trying to show someone your new fave video on YouTube only to be disappointed by a buffer screen and judging glances from your bored friend. “Wait, just give it a — no don’t start talking about something else!” Ugh.

Ok, back to my amazing earthquake analogy. If the mass adoption of the smartphone was an earthquake, then

So many earthquakes! And to put the effects of those in perspective, let’s take one last ponder at the smartphone earthquake that’s still fresh in our memories.

Think about how much our habits have changed in the last ten years.

That’s us. On the edge.

Looking A-Head

It’s not just that tech advancements are happening at a faster rate, the important thing to note is that tech adoption is happening at a faster rate. This is what changes culture.

So let’s speculate about the impact of the next big tech on the horizon: brain-to-computer communication devices. Today, both Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are making moves to develop brain-to-computer communication technology. Considering that almost ten years ago, monkeys were moving robotic arms with brainpower, the groundwork has been laid. This is similar to the environment in which the iPhone began.

Zuckerberg projects it will take two years for his tech to reach 100 words-per-minute. As of 2017, the record is 8 WPM, and that took ten years of development. Let’s split the difference and say Zuckerberg hits 100 WPM in four years. 2021.

When I try to picture what this will do to culture, I look to texting as a precursor for our behavior. Texting has surpassed voice as the long-range communication form of choice. It has influenced how we speak in real life. It’s easier to communicate in emoji’s and GIFs over words sometimes. Crazy af right? What happens when we start texting mentally? Think about how that will change how we do things.

I see a return to form. Language is unnatural and inefficient. Our brains may take to it, but thoughts always start in images and emotions. We evolved for pattern recognition and so we will return to patterns for communication. Right now we speak in threads. In the future we will speak in tapestries.

But really, who knows. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It might not be something like brain-to-computer interfaces that changes us–it’ll probably be a little less obviously-ambitious. The important thing to take away is that by looking at the increasing rate at which each society-changing technology has impacted us, something bigger than the Internet or the smartphone is coming. Soon. Probably within the next ten years. So brace for impact and get ready to adapt.

Brian Rigazzi is the Senior Designer at Mistress. Follow him on all the socials @brainsrigazzi.