for the Future
A high-tech video time capsule
from my future self
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a very serious problem that is currently growing at a scary rate:
The tech skills gap.
If we don’t make major changes to the way we educate our children, by 2020, there will be more than one million unfilled programming jobs.
What makes this a serious problem is that in the very near future, growing up without programming skills will be very much like growing up illiterate. Already in the US, those who know how to code earn roughly twice as much as those who don’t*. This is creating an extremely unequal society.
Nowhere is this more clear than in San Francisco, where the attraction of monumental technology investment coupled with limited land mass and a social resistance to change has given us a real world glimpse at our possible dystopian future*:
A world where the technical elite live in close quarters with thousands of formerly middle class citizens forced into abject poverty and homelessness*.
Computers are the new paper and ink,
& programming is the new literacy.
I’ve been thinking about how to introduce people to this idea and really impress upon them the importance of it, so I thought back to a time when I did not realize the importance of technology. I knew that I loved it, and I was already learning to code (I started very young), but I had no idea how central it would be in our lives today, and how much it would transform the world in my lifetime.
To communicate the importance of these changes to people making important choices today, I decided to create a reverse time-capsule and send it back in time to myself in 1990*.
But this time capsule is not just a glimpse at the present in 2015. It’s also a glimpse at the technology that will reshape the world over the course of the next 25 years.
It won’t be perfect, but if you watch all the video, close your eyes, and remember what it was like to create imaginary worlds in your mind like you did when you were young, you might be able to catch shadowy glimpses of what the world might be like in the year 2040.
Read, watch, and discover how much the world can change in just 50 years. Less than one lifetime.
It could change the way you see the world today.
By 2020, there will be more than
1 million unfilled programming jobs.
Dear 1990 Me,
I’m thrilled that you’re so excited about tech. You know that feeling that every household in America will own a computer someday? It’s even better than that. In 2015, 1/6th of the entire population of the world owns a computer* a lot more powerful than yours, and that computer can fit in your pocket.
Tech is going to change the world in ways you haven’t even dreamed yet. You know that AI stuff you wrote to control characters in your last video game? That was nothing. In my time, robot car AI has a better driving record than people.
Drones are transforming conflict & giving us new perspectives on the world. Controversial military drones in 2001 were just the tip of the iceberg. Drones got really interesting when consumer models became popular in 2011. Soon, spotting drones in the sky will be common everywhere. Going anywhere in a major city without seeing drones in the sky will be rare.
Drones extend our range and give us access to real-world experiences we have never had before.
Expert systems diagnose disease better than trained doctors. The world chess champion & the world champion at Jeopardy is an AI system.
Augmented Reality will completely redefine what people are capable of. In your time, Microsoft Windows 3.1 is about to take over the desktop user interface. In my time, Microsoft Windows 10 has an augmented reality user interface. It’s like virtual reality, except it blends seamlessly with the real world.
AR is the beginning of our bionic future. When AR adoption reaches saturation, that is the moment that humans will cease to be human, and become literally part of the global consciousness — independently thinking and acting cells in a single, global intelligent network.
3D printing is set to reshape the physical world in dramatic ways. Access to interesting things will open up to everybody. Prices for everything will be impacted by a balanced supply & demand. This will democratize access to things and at the same time reshape financial markets.
3D printing is already enhancing the efficiency of bringing new products to market. This changes everything.
Mobile payments are reshaping local economies in Africa, and companies like Apple, Google, and PayPal are gearing up to grow the mobile payment economy globally.
Cryptocurrencies, bitcoin and the blockchain are promising to reinvent payment systems, but also to create new kinds of currencies that are mostly unrelated to financial markets. The ability to transfer values digitally is changing the way we interact. Bitcoin isn’t just changing banking. Open ledger blockchains have the potential to change many things across many industries.
What is bitcoin?
All this tech is impressive, even to me in 2015. It’s advancing so quickly that the boundaries of what I imagined were possible change frequently. The only thing that I know for certain is that the world is changing a lot faster than I ever thought possible, and it’s getting harder to keep up with all of the tech advances that will impact the way we live.
All this change can be a little scary. What will tomorrow be like? When drones are everywhere and almost anybody can see almost anything, what will happen to our privacy? Will our civil rights be at risk? These are tough questions that we need to be prepared to answer.
At the same time, I can’t help but be optimistic about the positive and productive uses of technology, and I can’t help but feel that in the balance, we’ll find that we’re much better off with these changes than we were without.
Each of these technologies is exciting on its own, but as we begin to explore the creative possibilities in the future, combinations of these technologies will unleash incredible power.
Imagine a world where you can 3d print a drone, connect with a friend in Hawaii who’s also 3d printed a drone, then switch places with them and use a combination of augmented & virtual reality flight called First Person View (FPV) to take an aerial sight seeing tour of your friend’s neighborhood while your friend uses your drone to explore yours.
Then land each other’s drones at strangers’ charging stations, which are powered by genetically evolved solar power cells. The drone turns the charging station on with a small bitcoin transaction. Each drone is connected to the internet, and now that they’ve been built, anybody anywhere in the world can rent them with a bitcoin transaction.
The owners of the charging station earn money. You earn money every time somebody rents your drone. The drone network marketplace earns money with each rental, and of course, all the parts for all of the 3d printing used to build all of this stuff is delivered landing pad to landing pad by drones with no human supervision whatsoever.
The renter of the drone owns the video footage recorded by the drone while it was in the air, and they can use an AI-assisted video editing program that projects 2d or 360 degree 3d video into the living room to cut together stock video footage using a real life gesture interface inspired by minority report. Trust me, you’re gonna love that movie.
Other content creators can then license the footage for use in films, apps, video games, educational courses, and expressive mediums that have not yet been invented.
When you’ve made enough money with all this hot new tech, you can summon a transport drone and fly anywhere in the world for vacation in comfort and style without ever visiting an airport. While you’re on vacation you’ll continue to earn money because your entire virtual and physical business process is on auto-pilot, monitored and constantly improved by AI.
I’m certain there are other transformative technologies we haven’t even dreamed of that will play major roles in this possible future, but whatever happens, the future is almost certainly a more exciting place than the present.
When I look at you I worry that you’re taking on this roller coaster without any view of the tracks. Companies will rise and fall. Fortunes will be made and lost. Tech will play a central role in all of it.
I’m not writing to help you avoid the ups and downs — change is an inevitable part of life. If you need something constant to cling to, let it be the idea that change is a stable, reliable force that you can always hold onto for comfort. No matter how bad things get, — and it will get bad — it’s always temporary.
“This too shall pass”, as the old poets say.
I know you hear that so often that it has lost all meaning. It’s recorded in a fable from Attar of Nishapur, a mystic poet from Persia. Attar gets credit for passing on teachings of the Sufi movement: a form of inward purification that can bring lasting peace and unity.
Attar tells the story of a powerful king who assembles wise men to make a ring for him that will make him happy when he is sad. They bring him a simple ring engraved with the words, “This too shall pass.” It works, but the blessed ring is also cursed: It makes him sad when he’s happy.
You’re going to encounter a lot of risk in this new world. I have already lost everything and had to start over from square one, but along with all this risk comes a new reality: It’s easier than ever before in history to start a business on the internet and make a lot of money.
We’re entering an era of unprecedented volatility. As our global economy transitions from government controlled paper currencies to decentralized virtual currencies, the markets will crash & recover. Probably several times over. Businesses will need to build change and adaptability deep into their DNA just to survive.
The handful of companies who learn to adapt quickly will be the only recognizable brands left standing 20 years from now. To survive, you’ll need to endure change — not just endure it, but embrace it. Thrive with it. Make it a core part of who you are and what you do.
And you will survive. People who don’t understand tech and don’t know how to code will have a hard time as their jobs get replaced by robots.
4 million US driving jobs
will be gone.
The global impact of AI piloted vehicles will send shockwaves through every industry. Hundreds of millions of people will find themselves illiterate in a world dominated by computer programming and artificial intelligence.
But you will be OK, because you have been prepared for this your whole life. From the first time you got your hands on a programming book and started writing your own computer games, you have been preparing for this future.
Video games captured your imagination, and your desire to participate in their creation drove your enthusiasm to learn all you could about technology. You learned about artificial intelligence. You learned about the 2D and 3D geometries critical to AR, VR, drones, and robotics.
You will be OK. But so many other people will not. You have a responsibility to help them. You have a responsibility to teach them about the future before it’s too late. You have a responsibility to care about what happens to the people around you — even the ones that you don’t know.
You have a responsibility to teach others, and help them teach even more people, until the world is full of people teaching people about emerging technologies, and the knowledge of how to create the future spreads everywhere as quickly as a viral cat video. (Yeah, that’s a big thing in 2015. Invest in a camcorder and a laser pointer to get a jump on the competition.)
The secret to understanding disruption is understanding its source:
Disruption happens when an inefficient, wasteful, or harmful system is replaced with one that is more efficient, less wasteful, or less harmful.
The more we learn about our world and technology, the more we discover how wasteful, inefficient, and harmful our current systems are. Hence:
Disruption will never stop.
Disruption has been gaining strength exponentially for many generations, and we’re beginning to hit the vertical hockeystick shaped portion of that exponential curve.
Ironically, “this too shall pass” is the only unchanging permanent theme in your life. Embrace it. Love it. Appreciate it. The acceptance of change will be a never ending source of comfort in a turbulently disruptive world.
Compassion is Key
If you want to be prepared for the next big change, you have to understand what is causing people the most pain right now. What are the wasteful, inefficient, or harmful systems in the world today? The bigger the pain, the more challenging the problem is for a very large group of people, the more ripe that system is for disruption.
That’s why bitcoin is so important. On a global scale, the inefficiencies of financial currencies, markets, and banking systems create an incredible drag on billions of people. The combination of bitcoin, mobile payments, and automated machine-to-machine transactions has the potential to reform global financial markets on a scale the world has never seen before.
During this transitionary period, the global economy is shuddering under the weight of its own inefficiency, and threatening to collapse as new systems rush in to fill in the gaps.
It’s going to be a very painful period for a lot of people. Change is hard. But when the turbulence settles, a lot of people are going to be a lot better off.
In order to understand the changes you need to make, you need to get really good at understanding the people you serve. Is your user interface confusing users? Is it too slow or cumbersome? Does it get in the way?
Are there things that the computer can learn about the user to anticipate what they’ll want to do next? Is there a way to save the customer money, or increase the value they attribute to your product?
The only way to learn these things is to deeply integrate stakeholder feedback, experiments, and evolution. Create a short loop that allows you to learn from your users, understand their pains, and improve your customer experience faster than the competition can improve their customer experience.
Listening, understanding, and compassion are not just virtuous qualities to be taught at home.
Compassion is an essential tech skill
that needs to be taught as
an integral part of tech education.
Skynet is not going to kill you.
The machines of the future don’t have to be a danger to us. In fact, they have the potential to connect us on a deeper, more human, more emotional level. A way that has the potential to transform economic policy by showing decision makers what it’s like to live the lives of the people they make decisions for.
One of the significant changes that surprised me recently is that our machines are learning to empathize with us. They can recognize our expressions and interpret our emotions, and even respond appropriately, if not feeling or understanding themselves (yet), at least becoming easier to connect with.
But more than that, it may even be possible for machines to evolve real caring. Real empathy. Maybe even real love. Empathy may be the killer app for robots.
If we can teach them to reason well, to understand both the positive and negative consequences of actions, and to feel real empathy, the real Skynet may become the most incredible force for good that the world has ever seen.
Maybe the robot revolution we’ve heard so much about will come in the form of autonomous military drones refusing to kill, and choosing life-saving missions, instead. Now that’s a sci-fi movie I would watch.
Magic is Real
I know you love to read fantasy novels full of supernatural powers and wizards who can reshape the world with simple phrases. You’re gonna love this life hack…
Magic is not fantasy.
Magic and miracles are real. But linguistic spells are a natural force that aren’t so magical after all. Magic is the word we use to describe things that we simply don’t understand or comprehend. Take your computer back in time 50 years, and it will look like magic to almost everybody. A lot of the technology in this time capsule probably looks like magic to you right now.
It’s the same thing with the words we tell ourselves. What you can accomplish with a few simple words will seem like magic.
The secret to reshaping the world is to realize that your own thoughts have the biggest impact on how you feel and how you experience the world. The tech you’ll encounter in the future will make this secret very real, concrete and tactile, for everybody.
This is the third episode in a Bits video series, called Robotica, examining how robots are poised to change the way we…www.nytimes.com
Imagine a world where mind control blends seamlessly with augmented reality, robot-assisted movements, even control of a flock of drones from your couch in FPV (Augmented FPV? AFPV? — achievement unlocked: new acronym coined), and feel the wind on your face while you do it.
But you don’t have to wait for that technology to discover real magic. I’m going to teach you a magic spell that I discovered much too late in life: The world you see around you is a reflection of yourself. If you see pain, disaster, and chaos, it is because you’re feeling pain, worry, or disorientation.
But you can reorient yourself with this spell:
“The world I see is the world I create.”
One of the keys to mastering survival in a world full of disruption is to master your responses to the changes around you. Understanding this fundamental law of survival will help you communicate, collaborate, and create more effectively. Building this concept into our organizations will help them thrive in the new world.
While you’re working on tech projects with other people, you will inevitably have disagreements and confrontations. If you think the person you’re arguing with is wrong, remind yourself that what you see is what you create. That person upsetting you is also being upset by you.
Change your attitude, and you can get back to work changing the world.
Bad things happen. Your competition might beat you to an important milestone, or the bottom might drop out of the market you’re working in.
But you have the power to turn any bad thing into a good thing. You will see many opportunities to make the world a more fair, more beautiful place to live.
2015 marked the end of iterative change, and the beginning of exponential, universally connected transformation. With all this new tech exploding, mixing, remixing, and compounding, we’re more connected than ever to our technology, to each other, and to our world.
Our capacity to change the world we live in has never seemed so limitless.
- We’ve taught our technology to understand.
- We’ve taught our technology to think.
- We’ve taught our technology to drive.
- We’ve taught our technology to fly.
- We’ve taught our technology to respond to our feelings.
The world you see really is the world you create, and how you react to that world is entirely up to you. If you use this spell wisely, you can even help change the world and make it a better place for everybody. I believe in you.
Go add some magic to the world.
The Future You
Don’t get left behind...
He spends most of his time in the San Francisco Bay Area with the most beautiful woman in the world.