photo by Gary Wilson

The following is a summary of Kevin Kelly’s Seminar “The Next 30 Digital Years”, presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s Seminars About Long-term Thinking. These monthly talks started in 02003 to build a compelling body of ideas about long-term thinking. Links to media and more information about this series can be found at the bottom of this page.

IN KEVIN KELLY’S VIEW, a dozen “inevitable” trends will drive the next 30 years of digital progress. Countless artificial smartnesses, for example, will be added to everything, all quite different from human intelligence and from each other. We will tap into them like we do into electricity to become cyber-centaurs — co-dependent humans and AIs. All of us will need to perpetually upgrade just to stay in the game.

photo by Gary Wilson

Every possible surface that can become a display will become a display, and will study its watchers. Everything we encounter, “if it cannot interact, it is broken.” Virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) will become the next platform after smartphones, conveying a profound sense of experience (and shared experience), transforming education (“it burns different circuits in your brain”), and making us intimately trackable. Everything will be tracked, monitored, sensored, and imaged, and people will go along with it because “vanity trumps privacy,” as already proved on Facebook. “Wherever attention flows, money will follow.”

Access replaces ownership for suppliers as well as consumers. Uber owns no cars; AirBnB owns no real estate. On-demand rules. Sharing rules. Unbundling rules. Makers multiply. “In thirty years the city will look like it does now because we will have rearranged the flows, not the atoms. We will have a different idea of what a city is, and who we are, and how we relate to other people.”

In the Q&A, Kelly was asked what worried him. “Cyberwar,” he said. “We have no rules. Is it okay to take out an adversary’s banking system? Disasters may have to occur before we get rules. We’re at the point that any other civilization in the galaxy would have a world government. I have no idea how to do that.”

Kelly concluded:

We are at the beginning of the beginning — the first hour of day one. There have never been more opportunities. The greatest products of the next 25 years have not been invented yet.
You‘re not late.

Kevin Kelly was the founding editor of Wired magazine and serves on the board of The Long Now Foundation. His books include Out of Control, What Technology Wants, Cool Tools and The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future.
To watch or listen to this Seminar, visit the Kevin Kelly Seminar Page. To follow the series, you can become a Long Now Member, download the Seminar app, or subscribe to our podcast. Members help to support this series and can access tickets to the talks, our live stream, and HD video of our full catalogue of Seminars.
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