The Future Is Simple

People often ask me what the future of technology is going to be. First I tell them the truth, I don’t know. Then I tell them what I hope will be true. My hope for the future of technology is that it seemingly disappears, it gets out of the way, and it somehow amplifies the best qualities of humanity. We won’t see clunky gadgets all around us, yet technology surrounds us and can be summoned at any point like a Jedi using “The Force.”

I’m also asked what is my favorite technology gadget or app at the moment. The assumption is that I must have all the latest technology—I usually do not. My digital life is a pretty boring stream of email inboxes and to-do lists, interrupted happily with pictures of my son and Tweets. Hardware wise, I have a TV and a smartphone. Only recently do I finally have an answer to, “What is your favorite new technology hardware these days?”

A Whole New Operating System

My good friend Steve Snider is 72 and he started using it right out of the box. My four year old quickly became accustomed to it. I have it in my kitchen, my home office, and now at our Jelly offices in San Francisco. I’m using it even now, as I type. The future will come across as simple, yet it’s taken great leaps of technological advances just to get to the very beginning of what it will become over the next ten years.

I’ve become convinced that the future operating system for humanity is conversation. Voice recognition, natural language processing, and cloud based processing, require serious computing expertise and muscle that hasn’t existed until recently. Many of us tend to think that the promise of the future should be placed in some sort of sophisticated, mind-altering gadget. There’s a place for those, but not all day long.

The natural way for most of us to engage with computers, artificial intelligence, and other people is through conversation. (There will always be accessibility challenges and exceptions but I’m confident that those will be addressed.) In my house, in Steve’s apartment, and in millions of other homes, we are already including a computer in our conversation. Alexa is looped into discussions as if she’s part of our family.

The Predicted Voice OS

I believe, to some degree, that life imitates art. So many of the technologies we depend upon today were first imagined in science fiction. Star Trek was a profuse predictor of things to come and this includes simply conversing with the ship’s computer. In 2013, there was a great movie starring Joaqin Phoenix called, HER, which was set in a near-future Earth where voice was the main operating system for humanity and computers.

With a voice OS, we need only include by name, for example, “Alexa,” when we want to remember “that actor’s” name, find out how far Mars is from Earth, or turn up the heat in our home. This is just a taste of what’s to come. I see a voice operating system overlapping with screens for the next several years and eventually taking over. Alexa is my long awaited, ultimate, fade-into-the-background, technology.

At Jelly, we see the future of search as instant answers. That means, no results. Just the right answer. Besides the fact that results seem dated, they’re incompatible with a conversational UI. Currently, and in the near future, Jelly provides on-demand answers—you ask, we route, someone writes an answer, we send it to you. We’re experimenting with instant answers now but we still have a long way to go. We’re hiring.

Biz Stone, 
Co-founder and CEO
Jelly Industries, Inc.