The Augmented Age

Life in the Smart Lane


10, 30, 50 years out — what will your life be like? What jobs will our children have? What companies will be the biggest in the world? How will we live? Will our Robot Overlords treat us with kindness or ambivalence?

There are three core changes that are coming hard and fast at the next generation. Within 10 years these developments will already have fundamentally changed our day-to-day life, but within 30 years, we will hardly recognize the world that we’re moving towards. These changes will impact everything we do everyday, and most of all it will impact society by radically changing the way we work, and the way markets and economies measure their effectiveness.

The Augmented Age will bring about a massive rethink of processes involving dynamic decision making, pattern recognition and advisory services as machine intelligence optimizes those processes and feedback loops. Whereas the Internet was most commonly about disruption of distribution, availability of information and rethinking the value chain, the next age will be about disruption of information, intelligence and advice (the application of information and intelligence) itself. Today there is already more data in the world than humans can ever hope to collectively analyze, so we’ll need AI just to make sense of that — but the total amount of data on the planet is roughly doubling every 2–3 months. It’s not just about data though…

The three major disruptions of the Augmented Age will be:

Artificial Intelligence that disrupts the nature of advice, that is better at everyday tasks like driving, healthcare, and basic services than humans. While many fear the possibility that hyper-intelligent robots or minds will take over the world, for the next 30 years it is far more likely these AI’s will be specialized and purpose built, and not human equivalent.

Distributed, Embedded Experiences that are embedded into the world and devices around us, but enable frictionless, contextualized service, products, advice and value creation, which in turn are monetized based on their effectiveness. In a world that is constantly augmented by data and information, value and personalization will be key.

Infrastructure improvements that radically change the way energy is delivered, the way people and goods are delivered, the way modern economies compete and the way markets value commodities. Whether drones, solar energy, electric cars or self-driving cars and trucks, the way value moves around the world will have shifted.

The biggest potential issue with the coming Augmented Age is with the shift in patterns of employment, and how we value markets. We’ve observed through the earlier ages a rebalancing of the workforce in other industries. In the Machine Age employment shifted from service industries and agriculture to manufacturing. The manufacturing sector grew steadily through the 20th century until the 70–80s when process, electronics and automation took its toll on that sector too, and those jobs started to shift out of factories into service industries. What happens in the 21st century when AI and experience design reduces employment in service industries? Where do those jobs go?

At the end of the day, we know the way people work and the way they live will radically change. Here are a few projections for the next 10–20 years from my new book Augmented

What are some of the disruptions coming in the next 30 years?

Jobs like loan officers, bank tellers, financial advisors, tax advisors, financial planners, etc will mostly be replaced by algorithms that are less prone to mistakes, human biases and restricted by limited data or information. Advice will be delivered in real-time via your personal life-stream.

The most powerful energy conglomerate in the world will not be invested in coal, gas or oil and the largest net new employment will likely be in retooling economies for solar energy moving away from the wooden poles and wires that currently distribute centralized generation

Amazon will be the first to deploy drones for delivery of products, but self-driving transport, and 3D printing will further disrupt the value chain making IP ownership (design) and access to these new distribution networks essential. Stores will become inefficient distribution models for a vast swathe of products, especially where advice is currently part of the experience

The biggest economies today will be those most disrupted by this, largely because of their hesitancy to change from reliance on long held investments in existing technologies. It is why China who is investing heavily in new technologies and infrastructure will eclipse the United States rapidly as the most valuable economy in the world, why unemployment is likely to grow in the US as the economy resists infrastructure improvement and climate change, but why the US stock market will thrive. Legacy infrastructure will curtail future economic growth severely. Silicon Valley and Venture Capital investment will be seen historically as one of the primary reasons the US economy remained globally viable in the face of crumbling incumbents and infrastructure.

The biggest companies in the world will all be technology companies, and commodities and financial services companies that aren’t technology based will find themselves losing market share rapidly over the next decade. The biggest banks in the world will likely be technology companies emerging out of developing economies serving the 2.5 Billion people that today are without a bank account, but most of whom will have a smartphone by the end of the decade. In 30 years the biggest companies will be based around personalized AIs, new energy and infrastructure, and most probably Asteroid mining for rare metals powering technology. Mobile and digital money will be significant players too.

Every aspect of our life will be augmented by technology. From devices that monitor our health, to the way we pay for goods and services, and how we spend our spare time. Living ‘off-the-grid’ will severely restrict your options, and coding as a basic life skill will be more important than learning algebra or geography. The most advanced technologies will become less visible and less intrusive, become smart, embedded and predictive in nature.

Give me your thoughts on how you think you’ll live your life in the next 20 years, and what you are most looking forward to in an Augmented world?