Tag Archives: the future

My SXSW Poem of the Future

At SXSW this year I took part in the Tech Off, run by the ace guys over at TechDept. The theme was ‘The Future’, quite a big subject.

Since getting on stage several people have asked me to publish my talk, mainly because it rhymed I think… so here it is, enjoy!

My Job didn’t exist when I was at school,
When I started coding my Dad thought I was fool.
He thought I’d turn into a weird geeky hermit,
In fact, he tried to make me study law and get a law permit.
But the visions for the future excite me more than the past,
Because when it comes to tech, the past fades fast.
So I’m definitely not a hermit and I’m proud to be a geek,
Which you’ll know if you go online and maybe read a tweet.
And maybe I’ll reply or maybe it’s my bot,
Because maybe I’m real and here, or maybe I’m not.
The future isn’t just augmented or virtual you see,
It’s set to be a blend of several realities.
And as the future keeps advancing and we become more connected,
We’ll all be liked and rated and ever more self reflected.
Will we strive for 5 gold stars or get jobs based on social ratings?
In a future that’s rose tinted and won’t allow for ‘slatings’.
Will robots steal our jobs? Will Skynet really happen?
Or is that as likely as a one handed man clapping?
Will tech become so seamless that we won’t be able to tell,
Where I begin, you end, and the tech blends in as well…
Does the future of ‘blurred lines’ mean mortar and bricks,
Become synonymously intertwined with pixels and clicks?
Today we pay with fingerprints, tomorrow our voice
In the future, our faces, will this remove our choice
To be recognised or not, to have ambiguity?
Or will we be on camera everywhere, live streamed to the street?
When our lives are in the cloud, seamlessly connected
Will we be faster, more efficient, or will our memories be neglected?
I only know one phone number, that’s the one I’ve had for 15 years,
If tech fails us, are we lost, stuck in a tech-less fear?
Will we all walk round in circles when Google maps decides to stop?
Will our short hand math become really shit? Will that matter, or not?
Does a bit of humanity get lost when we rely on tech?
Do we discover less, feel less, care less, meh what the heck…
Or is tech making us efficient so we get more out of life?
And if we supercharge this in the future do we negate trouble and strife?
I’m at a conference with talks about ‘cheating MRI’
And every little thing becoming powered by AI.
In a future where every heartbeat and every drop of sweat,
Is calculated, decoded and uploaded to the net.
When connected collars tell us when our dogs have got a fever,
Or our cats can be interpreted through intelligent receivers.
When Jacquard powered jeans tell guys ‘you’re flying low’,
Our clothing interprets stress and tension, head to toe.
In a future where cars aren’t just autonomous but fly,
In highways constructed over cities in the Sky.
Where these cars are an extension of our physical being,
Our fridges order milk, our homes capable of seeing.
In the future are we dumb? Just run by automation…
Or are we elite and empowered, an unstoppable ‘one nation’?
In OUR future we WILL stand beside robots that are intelligent,
But further more we face a future that goes beyond this and is sentient.
There will be competition, co-petition, ambition and decision
But convergence and empowerment will come to fruition.
If biology is programmable and we can program 3D printing,
Will we solve poverty and hunger, now that got me thinking…
If a world built on noughts and ones merges with atoms,
Does that provide a world that you and I can barely fathom?
If we can put interfaces into brains and quadriplegics can move cursors,
Will we enhance that human life, is the advance in science worth it?
If we contemplate the dialogue between human and computer,
Do we invite tech to take over or, just to help us when it suits us?
There are so many things that today we do not know,
But if we super charge our neurons there’s nowhere a brain can’t go.
We can speed up our learning curve and mass communicate,
Have conversations without speaking, silently collaborate.
Whether this 5 minutes makes you laugh or maybe makes you wonder,
There is one thing for sure that we should collectively ponder;
Is technology and innovation a force for good or force for bad?
Is it going to bring us closer or going to drive us mad?
To quote Einstein ‘it’s obvious it’s exceeded humanity’
And he’s been dead for decades so it’s pretty clear to see,
That the trajectory we’re on isn’t slowing down,
And in fact with quantum computing we can go to town.
I for one would rather be in the driving seat,
Amongst you crazy bunch of awesome techies, devs and geeks.
For the ONE thing about the future that we should ALL be aware
Is love it fear it, WE are ALL going there …
And we can choose to lead or we can choose to follow
So I say, let’s grab the future by the balls and go invent tomorrow!!!
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I Dredd to think…

I’m writing this from one of my favourite cities in the world.

For me Hong Kong is the epitome of where urban dwellings meet the jungle. Tropics growing into brick, buildings built around ancient roots. It feels like a chapter from I Am Legend, except we’re all still very much alive.

The subject of technology outgrowing humans is rife here, I’m collaborating on a project with a friend and it’s come up time and again as this city and the surrounding majors struggle to adopt innovations in a way that resonate with the humble origins the culture is built upon.

This week has left me reflecting on whether sustainable thinking will lend to mega metropolises, or whether global urbanisation will mean that rural areas will get left behind.

As transport becomes more sustainable, more affordable, ever faster and more connected, will it conflict with the debate around borders being reimposed and trade restricted back to regions again? Take Brexit as an example closer to home; if we leave the EU and customs barriers lead to effective restriction to start with, will we note the stagnation that will quickly follow so that when international exchange comes to a standstill we won’t notice the daily conflict?

On a related note but different angle, technology has allowed that we all become producers. Open SDK’s and API’s, 3D printing and crowdfunding all mean that rather than brands lending to personalisation, self made and personally tailored will be the next movement. Will brands play a role in enabling this or will they move to a protective stance on their IP?

I like to think that all my favourite cities are characterised by diversity and as such we will continue to encourage flexibility across the globe, joining forces to build reliance against what could otherwise be a tough future.

But as technology surges with intelligence at it’s core, the biggest question I am hearing repeatedly from all over is whether global cooperation and unlimited interaction will evolve to one diverse world where we see and share everything, or whether the future take us back to the past?

Will Mega Metropolises mean just Mega blocks and Mega highways? Will we live in a Mega City One? Will it be more Skynet than that? So many film references and a tad Dredd I know, but I believe the next few years will impact this more than we care to acknowledge.

I judge you not.

judge-dredd-on-screen-future-still-up-in-the-air-01

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Click to Predict

Last year eCommerce saw a rise in click to collect behaviour, pop up millennial hubs, drone deliveries, shoppable store fronts and mobile payment systems like Apple Pay leapfrog forwards. So what does this year hold?

Here are three things I think will start to take off:

  1. sCommerce: 2015 saw all of the major social players roll out their version of the ‘buy now’ button in order to bring shopping to the masses acting on impulse in social media around the world. The trend is set to spike into this year as the tracking of associated likes and comments enable brands to quickly grasp and react to what consumers want.
  2. Pre-cognitive commerce: Is the art of knowing what consumers want before they know they want it. In a connected world where immediate gratification is an increasing expectation, brands will need to be reactive more quickly, not to what shoppers ask for, but to what they may ask for next. 
  3. Truth-based purchasing: Technology has provided a level of connectivity that means brands will not be able to hide anything about their products in the future. Clothes will communicate with washing machines as to how they need to be washed, food will talk to fridges about when they’re going out of date, the national grid will talk to homes about when they are switching to ‘bad’ energy. The margin for creative license in communicating brand truths has narrowed further and will continue to do so.

I wonder who will get it right…

Keep-Your-Heels-Head-and-Standards-High-Coco-Chanel-Poster-Textual-Art-A89P389P1824

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Personalisation with a side of ease

As someone who travels a lot there’s nothing worse than stepping off a long flight, red-eye kicking in, knowing you’ve still got to claim your luggage, find your transfer, get across town, find your hotel, complete an arduous check in process and get up to your room before you can finally collapse on the bed.

So imagine my excitement when I spent a day with the top tech bods in the travel and hospitality industry reinventing the entire future-scape for the upgrade needed to cater for Gen X & Y travellers.

We talked a lot about the automation of the journey. How we could put in place a centralised data approach with intelligence systems connected to smartphones and robots aiding the various staff throughout. Whilst I find that really exciting, I’m sure you won’t want to be bored with the tech stack, so to let you in on how it might feel in 2025 I’ll summarise a brief walk through of a typical business trip, we’ll start with stepping off that plane again…

The second you switch from flight mode a signal is sent to your smart suitcase where the built-in tracker connects to your phone as you make your way through customs, you time getting to the conveyor belt perfectly. You pick up your case and activate the next signal, which is sent to your driver who now knows to get to the pick up bay within a three-minute window, avoiding parking fees, congestion and more importantly you being irritated by him not being there.

Your GPS switches to your driver who you find with equal ease. You collapse in the back of the car, whatever music you want is synced automatically, the temperature adjusted and an update sent to your hotel with your live eta feed updating your awaiting concierge.

On arrival your check-in is confirmed through facial recognition, you’re then greeted personally and swiftly shown to your room whereupon your climate is again synced, your drink and snack of choice is freshly prepared and your smart TV pre-loaded with your favourite channels. You can even activate a holographic in-room personal trainer should you so wish…

Your dinner table is reserved at the time you would normally eat and on arrival you see that the menu is based on your culinary preferences with wine recommendations to match. Not only that but the seasonal info and the history of the restaurant Chef are sent to your mobile because they know you like to read the background to what you eat and how it’s prepared.

After dinner, you retire to the lounge and login to a guest screen which is loaded with your business itinerary, options to tailor your travel and where to take your clients, plus recommendations on what to do with your spare time.

You relax, confident that every detail has been taken care of.

In this future-scape our aim is to democratise an executive level of assistance so that everyone can have his or her own ‘Parker’ rather than having to rely on ‘Manwell’.

do not disturb

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The future belongs to connectivity

I spend a lot of my working life developing strategies for brands that need to move from broadcast, through audience engagement, to immersive connectivity, thinking three years into the future as a minimum, then I leave work and step into a broadcast heavy advertising bombardment and it saddens me.

That’s not to take anything away from the clever ads out there, but just imagine a future where advertising is intelligently informed, rewarding at just the right moment rather than randomly broadcast in a vain attempt to get your attention. 

Imagine that subtle product placement is integrated into how you live your life; your fridge is able to provide branded recipes based on it’s contents, your car can recommend a restaurant based on the time of day and your preferred driving routes, that restaurant then has your cocktail waiting on arrival with your preferred gin of choice.

It might sound mildly creepy to some but to me this everyday surprise and delight is an ease of living I am waiting to embrace.

I want brands to enable me to accomplish more, more seamlessly. We’re a few steps away from living in a truly connected world so every exchange between me and any brand should be streamlined at the very least. 

All we’re missing is the common language that connects all our smart devices but this will arrive soon and brands that adopt this thinking now, will be the ones that write the first chapter. 

Brands need to understand that they should be replacing my behaviours, not reinventing them; my ask is simple really, get to know me, then make my life better. 

gin cocktail

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VIRTUALLY HUMAN

I love as much as the next person donning a head set and immersing myself in a world of fantasy where I can fly around on my very own dragon and slay my enemies, an experience that envelops my physical and sensory powers, transporting me to a space and time beyond my real identity.

But this is fast becoming just a norm, scary? Maybe… maybe not.

VR is winning over on mere fiction; it challenges the mind, it challenges the perception of reality, I guess you could say therefore that it challenges mankind.

Another technology that I love working with is Artificial Intelligence, the only thing I can imagine more exciting than either VR or AI, is the two working together.

AI is the science of making intelligent machines or programs based on algorithms derived from understanding the cognitive ability of the human brain but not limited to biology. Once taught, these machines can be scripted and controlled, but more exciting they can become autonomous.

We’re not quite at the stage where we characterize what kind of computer procedures we want to call intelligent, but they lean towards those that are maybe less mechanical, or less engineered, i.e. prompted by emotion.

Human IQ is the measure at which human intelligence develops based on; speed, short-term memory and the accuracy of long-term memory. AI is arguably the reverse; programs have plenty of memory and speed but their abilities correspond to inputs and commands.

To this end, currently most work involving AI involves studying the challenges the world puts to our intelligence in order to solve them at an improved return on speed or money, but if we were to combine a world created virtually along with the abilities of AI, then surely we could create a new theorized knowledge source; a new perspective… a new reality.

Information is at our fingertips, the likes of Google sorted that one for us, but new insight, new knowledge, that is far more interesting. So if we could create worlds that anticipated situations of the future and then input artificial intelligence into it, then in this parallel universe we could create a new perception, a new reasoning.

Technology is powerful in the hands of humans, if we enhance that artificially then the virtual world could be our new oyster.

Cyborg Head

Now, where did I leave my Dragon..?

 

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Give a girl the right shoes…

I live in a rapidly evolving world where cars can drive themselves, robots can run warehouses and drones can deliver our parcels. A world where virtual reality blends with real reality (the re substantiation of mere ‘reality’) and I can get anything I want, whenever and wherever I want it, in the palm of my hand, so why do my new shoes still give me blisters?

A friend of mine lost a limb, on his road to recovery I’ve got to know him in a very different light this last year, where many would have turned inside themselves and got lost in remorse and pity, he embraced modern technology and now has a pretty cool prosthetic limb. He’s as strong as before, as balanced as he ever was and he argues, able to endure more than his human limb previously allowed him to.

This got me thinking about the tech available that could be used for solving every day irritations (not that I’m comparing blisters from new shoes to wearing a prosthetic limb!) but we could adapt the thinking…

Why not develop shoes with materials that are electronically charged, materials that transform from being soft to hardy through electro static charges? What about exo-skeletal hiking boots that enhance our ability to scale mountains like gazelles?!

Imagine shoes that transform to your feet, imagine dancing the night away, foot loose and blister free.

Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world!

ruby slippers

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My Dad is a microwave blender

The only real reason that robots haven’t replaced us yet is simply that robotic engineers can’t program all the knowledge currently required into a robot quick enough. As humans we adapt and learn every second of every day, therefore the sheer magnitude of possibilities a human brain provides excels any manufactured equivalent to date.

What we have seen though is that once configured, current robots in use are quicker, more efficient and less prone to accident. Amazon already have factories with considerably less error where robots are deployed, some Governments are looking to introduce drone delivery systems and Google have tested their automated car in Nevada for over a year and the only accidents recorded happened when a human overrode the system.

And to top that, at the end of last year there was a break through in how robots acquire their knowledge; they can adapt and learn through validated paths that process the human language by understanding how to identify speech patterns, therefore replicating how the brain connects from the frontal cortex to the striatum.

With these developments engineers predict artificial intelligence and robots will replace humans in the next 10 years, and by 2050 robots will be a part of our every day life. Gets you thinking doesn’t it?

To end on a lighter note though, I’d like to share a poem I love by one of my favorite non-robots, Tim Burton:

“Mr. Smith yelled at the doctor,
What have you done to my boy?
He’s not flesh and blood,
he’s aluminum alloy!”
The doctor said gently,
What I’m going to say
will sound pretty wild.
But you’re not the father
of this strange looking child.
You see, there still is some question
about the child’s gender,
but we think that its father
is a microwave blender.”

Tim BurtonThe Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories

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