Transformative Tech and Exponential Tech
The Future of Work, Society, and the Human Mind
Transformative Tech is the use case of Exponential Tech applied to the problem of mental health, the future requirement for social emotional skills at work, and the promise of human optimization. Indeed, solving the Grand Global Challenges demands elevating the quality of the human mind in parallel to developing exponential tech.
In a virtuous cycle, exponential technologies can unlock greater levels of mental health, emotional skills, and human flourishing, which in turn can improve and accelerate the success of people creating or using ever more powerful exponential technologies. As a community, we spend a great deal of time working towards abundance — imagine if the all of humanity was mentally and emotionally unleashed to do so as well. Could we create abundance faster? Could it be better? Could we more safely navigate the end of work as we know it? We think so.
The Universal Problem of the Human Mind
Worldwide psychological data shows accelerating levels of stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness and suicide across all countries, cohorts, and cultures. The estimated negative annual impact of stress in the US ALONE is over $300BN. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, by 2030, the WHO estimates that it will be the leading disease burden globally. One in six Americans are on anti-depressants. Loneliness isn’t constrained by age, gender, marital status or job title. In 2010, 40–45% of Americans 45+ felt regularly or frequently lonely. In 2015, 16% of Global Millennials felt lonely every single day. Loneliness has a greater negative impact on health than obesity. The overall suicide rate in the US rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014. Suicide isn’t a western issue either. It’s a major issue in the developing world. Last, there is a shortage of trained mental health practitioners in the US and internationally. China has a major shortage with less than 60K for the entire population . In both cases, to insist that only humans can support humans in a traditional 1:1 framework is to accept that tens of millions will go without support.
Emotional Wellbeing (Social Emotional Skills)
However, not being sick does not mean that someone feels well, alive, or is psychologically able to make their biggest contribution. Even though objectively the world is better off than it has ever been, many people feel afraid, disconnected, and powerless while trust is at an all-time low. The Edelman Trust Barometer found that 53 percent of respondents believe the current overall system has failed them — it is unfair and offers little hope for the future — while only 15 percent believe it is working, and approximately one-third are uncertain.
Low trust causes low collaboration, experimentation, and creativity — at the exact time in human history when we need it the most. Engagement in work and at school is low with sources estimating only 15% of the global workforce described as highly engaged. Gallup found that 87 percent of workers worldwide and 70 percent of employees in the U.S. (84 percent in Canada, 83 percent in the U.K.) are either not engaged or actively disengaged. The estimated negative annual impact of low engagement is $550BN worldwide.
The rise of software and automation means that in the jobs of the future, human interaction skills will be required — yet we don’t teach these skills in our society and as such have no institutional approach to transition to the jobs of the future. Estimates of job replacement run from 800MN jobs by 2030 to 47% of all current jobs by 2050. Given this, it seems crazy not to train people to have the human interaction skills estimated by MIT to be required to be employable by 2030. TransTech applications help with collaboration, connection, creativity, empathy, communication, adaptability, compassion and more.
Human Flourishing and the “Purpose Problem”
Meanwhile, Bill Gates worries less about jobs than about what he calls “The Purpose Problem.” Purpose is tied to fundamental questions like “Who am I?” or “How does my life count?” Being able to answer these two questions well at a minimum sits atop self-awareness and mental and emotional health (after basic needs of course). It also extends into human flourishing, exponential wellbeing, and expanding the very capacity of humans. In a future defined by change, happiness will come from a feeling of progress and growth while feeling secure will come from a sense of purpose. With abundance, your answers to these questions — and the actions you take based on them — will be an essential part of your compensation.
TransTech and the UN Sustainable Development Goals
TransTech will contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals of Global Health related to Mental Health (SDG#3), Quality Education based on Emotional Skills and Wellbeing (SDG#4), and Work and Economic Growth based on Human Flourishing (SDG #8).
What’s required is that we design tech to serve our true needs, not just our wants, with our humanity at the center. In our human centered design workshops, we put tech to the side and ask first “What human characteristics do you want to amplify? What interaction skills do you want to enhance? How do you want to connect with other humans?” The goal is not to replace 1:1 human interaction nor to replace embodied self awareness. After all, ensuring that “training wheels” come off can be seen as another design challenge.
In short, the human mind is both the first and the last problem. We cannot engineer our way around it, but we can engineer our way to, and through it, unlocking unprecedented human potential. This is the promise of Transformative Tech and why it matters to all of us.
The Opportunity of Exponential Tech
Exponential tech can and should be used to help close that gap between the human mind and technical capacity. Exponential technologies present an opportunity to diagnose, improve, and expand human inner capacity at a scale not possible even 10 years ago. Advances in TransTech are driven by exponential curves in networks and computing, AI and machine learning, proliferation and virtualization of sensors and massive data, AR and VR, progress in medicine and neuroscience, and more. Some examples of exponential tech in TransTech are below.
Exponential Tech Applications in TransTech
AI & Robotics — Pattern Recognition (Behavior, Mood, Learning) / Emotion Recognition (Face, Voice, NLP) / Compassionate, Supportive or Attentive AGI & ChatBots / Depression Bots / Coach Bots / Diagnosis @ Scale / Comparative Psychological Models + Unique Personalization / Comfort Elder Robot Attendants / Digital girlfriends
Networks & Computing Systems — Massive Data Sets / Ubiquitous Tracking of Life Data / Proliferation and Virtualization of Sensors / Smart IOT / Smart Houses @ Smart Cars to Monitor & Support / Uploads
Medicine and Neuroscience — Age of the Brain & The Mind (mutually reinforcing, insight in one adds insight to another) / Brain Research / Neurotech / Neuro-Enhancement / Neurostim / Group Neurodata Syncs/ Psychological Tech / Behavior Change / Digital Selfie & Life + Behavior Data Integration / Vagus Nerve / Aspirational Avatars / Happiness Engineering / Augmentation / Digital Replikas
Biotechnology & Bioinformatics — DNA — Brain and Gut / Depression and DNA / Glucose & Mood / Biome and Behavior + Psychology / Design — Biostim / Group Biodata Synch / Bio-design
Nanotechnology & Digital Fabrication — Sensor miniaturization for monitoring & support / Personalized devices and sensors / Augmentation
Energy & Environmental Systems — Mentally and emotionally supportive cities, offices, and homes via light, sound, smell, power / Home AI for everything
AR & VR — Immersive & Layered Personal and Social Development Experiences
Blockchain — Digital EMR for Psychological Data / Blockchain to Track Wellbeing
TransTech Tech Categories
Within this framework, we track 11 product categories all of which are based on exponential tech with TransTech applications:
- Sensor Tech (Wearables, Hearables, Remote / Environmental)
- Data Tech (AI, Big Data, Real Time Analytics)
- NeuroTech (EEG, fMRI)
- Neurostim Tech (tXCS, tRNS, DBS, CNS, TUS, FUS, TMS)
- Biofeedback Tech (EDA, Heart, Temp, Breath)
- Bio Tech (Genetics, Biome)
- Biostim Tech (Vagus Nerve, Peripheral Nerves)
- Perception Tech (VR, AR)
- Sleep Tech (Monitoring, Improvement)
- Healthy Spaces Tech (Design, IOT, Air, Water, Lighting, Materials)
- App Tech (Gaming, Gamification, Apps, Social, Behavior)
TransTech: A $3TN+ Market Hidden in Plain Sight
Humans are trying to solve these problems already. Current market demand exceeds $3TN WW just in areas where exponential tech can be leveraged to develop more precise, accessible, and affordable applications for human inner health and development. These markets represent areas ripe for disruption and are drawing real companies with real tech applications. Tomorrow, there will be infinite market demand as you cannot be too healthy or happy as humans embrace the next human agenda of augmentation, happiness, and longevity.
The TransTech 200
We track the best of the companies. Every year, we identify 200 companies with buyable products as well as another 200+ of the most promising with products in development. We’ve identified over $1.6BN of investment in these companies through public data.
Specific companies by exponential tech category include:
We expect this trend to grow as more entrepreneurs, companies, investors, cities and countries recognize the problems and opportunities addressable by TransTech applications. In a future with more software, we’re “doing” less but “being” more and as humans, we will spend more time in our heads and with each other.
Today, we’re not really good at this, we don’t teach these skills universally, and without navigating this well — the future we leave our children will not be as amazing as it can be. We must address privacy, ethics, etiquette, and skills around having these types of exponential tech applications, but the benefits outweigh the effort required to handle these issues.
Failing to do so will be a failure of imagination and of intent. Meanwhile, solving these design challenges around the human mind and unlocking the opportunity of ourselves will be our greatest accomplishment as it will strengthen and accelerate abundance.
- My next article is on a TT Design Process around human centered amplification, enhancement, and connection in tech.
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