From API to HPI: Introducing the ‘Human Program Interface’

Within the growing On Demand Economy, humans are sent request as though they are part of an API


Not too long ago, Application Program Interfaces, or APIs, was all anyone in the tech world would focus on. They were the new convenience of the web — sharing snippets of code between programs in order to accomplish tasks faster. After all, APIs are what allow you to share a game’s status with your friends on Facebook. It’s no secret that game developers enjoy utilizing the social media giant Facebook and its API to promote their games via automatic status updates and friend invites. If you are on Facebook at all, this trend is hard to miss, especially if your friends play Farmville or Candy Crush.

Introducing the Human Program Interface (HPI)

Now, APIs have become common place and no longer wow the crowds. Instead, I believe there is a new phenomenon bursting onto the scene. Much like the API trend, this emerging technology is also based on a program placing a request — only the request is made to a human on the other end. I call this new system the Human Program Interface (HPI). As on demand economy jobs become increasingly popular for accomplishing day-to-day tasks for people, HPI continues to gain popularity as the price for once out-of-reach services becomes affordable enough for the masses.

Within the growing on demand economy, humans are sent requests as though they are part of an API

Within the growing on demand economy, humans are sent requests as though they are part of an API — and everyday tasks are then completed for the programmer (you). Essentially, the average person is granted access to a lifestyle only seen by the elite class in earlier generations. Every mundane, routine task can now be taken care of for you with a simple request via a mobile app or website form.

Take TaskRabbit, where you can pay someone to stand in line for you. In fact, you can outsource just about any micro job or chore that you would rather not do. The person on the other end, who is chosen by you on this website, will then set out to complete whatever task you have awarded them with, leaving you with more time and a smaller to-do list. In essence, the on demand economy gives you more time to do what you love, while tasking others with the rest.

.. such a task will eventually be transitioned over to self-driving vehicles

Uber is another way a push of a button can request the services of another human. By requesting a ride, you essentially “program” another human to carry out your request. While such a task will eventually be transitioned over to self-driving vehicles which you can request on demand, for now — they are a part of the on demand economy that is driven by the HPI.

Love the experience of home-cooked meals, but hate the hassle of grocery shopping? HPIs allow you to send requests to delivery drivers when you place an online grocery order, giving you control over when and where you groceries arrive. With Vons grocery delivery service, you can even give specific instructions to the employee loading your cart and completing the checkout process for you. Thus, you are able to request that the latest expiration dates be chosen when your grocery shopper chooses your eggs.

In the past, secretaries, personal drivers, tailored meals and on demand services were reserved for those fortunate enough to afford the price tag associated with such a lifestyle. Today’s world is rapidly changing to slowly allow people in the first world to live as the one percent has for centuries. Personal chauffeurs, delivered groceries and personal assistants are quickly becoming available to the average first world dweller.

Indeed, as APIs were the beginning of on demand services, HPIs are just the transitioning phase before we circle back to the machine-controlled API once more. As the Internet of Things weaves itself into our reality, “smart” objects will continue to pop up everywhere. Everything from your clothing, to your mirror — to your refrigerator — will communicate with you and the other objects in their vicinity. No longer will you ever be out of stock of your favorite fruit juice — your fridge will have already ordered it from Amazon long before you ran out — only to be drop-shipped by one of Amazon’s delivery drones.

The Internet of Things is on its way into our lives, as once it’s here — it will remain a staple. But, before that happens, the driving force in the on demand economy will be the HPI experience of people requesting others to drive them around, deliver food, pick up their dry cleaning and stand in line for those hard-to-get concert tickets.


For more reading see my 2 other pieces on the On Demand Economy:
- On Demand Economy
- How the On Demand Economy can Save Small Businesses

To give feedback or discuss hit me up here or on twitter @madsviktor.