I’m sharing some thoughts today about the impacts of future technology on organisations, specifically from a learning and performance perspective. This is a #WorkingOutLoud post as I develop a session for a conference next week. As such, despite my optimism, it’s only part completes today and shared in that spirit. The session will focus on seven areas of innovation and likely impact: ‘connectors’, ‘filters’, ‘audioscapes’, ‘artificial intelligence’, ‘sense makers’, ‘temperature checks’, and ‘augmentation’.
So far, I’ve worked up details around connectors, filters, and audioscape. Connectors is about a new wave of technology that will link together 1st degree effects: for example, contextually linking up relevant people from the crowd, so that as we travel to new sites, or arrive in new cities, we are linked to people with similar interests, congruent needs, or some other level of alignment. In other words, technology that can facilitate connection. There will be greater connection between different systems: if the future of technology is lightweight and interconnected, which I believe that it is, then we will see new layers of systems that link together different channels. For example pulling out relevant information and correlating it between social media and mainstream news channels.
Social collaborative technology already connects us between geographies, but with synchronous translation we may see greater connection between cultures which were previously separated by disparate languages. Naturally there can be downsides to any of these things: Loss of cultural identity, loss of richness of language, but also significant benefits. Creative partnerships that could never have happened before, respectful dialogues across borders.
We will see a more rapid connection to the truth: in the current election cycle we have seen lies and misinformation called to attention by troops of fact checkers, but in the future much more of this fact checking will be automated the point where we will likely see synchronous narrative of fact checking as we go. Perhaps visual or audio overlays on text and video. Connecting us with the truth in a more meaningful way.
I’m attracted to the way that we will be able to connect up surplus: if Wikipedia is the product of what Clay Skirky calls our cognitive surplus, what other surpluses will be connected, and what will be achieved with that? We are already seeing the ability for people to offer small slivers of their time, their expertise, their processing power, or even just micro transactions of money, which, when aggregated at scale, can be used to great effect.
Thinking about filters, the second category of innovation, we will see greater filtering for relevance, the mood, filtering for bias, filtering dependent on cultural context. It’s no coincidence that I’m talking about culture in both these initial technologies, because as communication and transport technology reduces global barriers, cultural barriers will come to the fore. Within organisations, we will see greater filtering by role, not to restrict people seeing things, but rather to contextualise what they see to what they do.
There’s also an interesting aspect of filtering that ties into resilience: when an individual, or the system as a whole, is in danger, we may see filtering, preprocessing, buffering, and adaptation of the communication ecosystem around us to reduce cognitive overload and decision-making pressure. In other words, the phased collapse of the system, rather than its sudden fragmentation or fracture.
One of the most exciting areas of innovation, and yet one which seems to be hardly on anyone’s radar yet, is the creation of audioscapes. These will be aural landscapes, perhaps with the contextualisation of information in three dimensions, so we will not only have information filtered through to us, but also located around us. We have a strong capacity to locate the source of sound, and that capacity can be utilised to create three-dimensional information spaces based upon sound. This is a natural navigational tendency, and can behind synchronous and immersive. Perhaps we will see the emergence of layers of sound that we can dial up or down, much as cognitively we use our attention to filter out background noise. An audio environment is likely to be far more socially acceptable than what Google discovered with the first prototypes of Glass, which came with its attendant worries of privacy and photography, not to mention the fact that wearing headphones is normalised, whilst wearing a camera on your face is not.
Or at least, is not yet.
I’ll come onto augmentation later, but I have no doubt that in the future wearable cameras and screens will be as common as glasses and headphones today, as anybody has navigated with a head-up display mounted in the glasses will testify. It’s just too good not to happen.
I’ll continue to share this work as I develop it next week.