The future isn’t what it used to be

The future isn’t what it used to be
SHARE
THIS



Prospection, the act of looking forward in time, is a quintessentially human endeavour. In fact, some consider it the quintessential human endeavour.

Psychologist Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness (and star of a recent Prudential campaign in the US) says: “The human being is the only animal that thinks about the future.”

This is why we are able to evolve, culturally. We don’t just react to the immediate, we are always playing chess a few steps ahead, and we can learn from the accumulated wisdom of the past.

Digital technologies triggered an exponential explosion. Moore’s Law is the beat that drives changes, doubling what’s possible every 18 months, while the price halves. This is really, really weird.

No other technologies change this rapidly. Cars do not get twice as fast and half as expensive every 18 months. In fact, cars haven’t changed very much at all in 50 or even 100 years, at their very essence. 

But microchips do change exponentially.

Gauging the rate of cultural evolution, however, is another matter. This is what causes ideas to come to market prematurely, like the Apple Newton, or most things in DotCom One. Designer Bill Buxton, principal scientist at Microsoft Research, calls this the ‘Long Nose of Innovation’.

Technologies that go on to have global scale, like multi-touch, take an average of 20 years to be refined enough, cheap enough, designed enough and understood enough, to become mass.

One of the unforeseen effects of the exponential turn in the road was on our collective imagination. Science fiction is the domain of the speculative, showing engineers possible futures to try and create. Google Earth, and Second Life, were both created when engineers read Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson and tried to build ideas they saw on the pages. But something happened just after the turn of the millennium.

Having rushed to create the future, and seeing it collapse, our conception of the future began to collapse as well.

To imagine the world of Minority Report, Stephen Spielberg assembled some of the great thinkers of the time and the result took hold on our vision of tomorrow. That, we all decided, is the future we are working towards, but boy is it far away. So let’s not worry about it. And that, I suspect, is a problem.

Personalised billboards that know your name and purchase habits became retargeted banners stalking us around the web. Gesture-based computing gloves and 3D projections lead to Kinect and Leap Motion and wearable technologies. (Doesn’t it look tiring, though? All that waving your arms around.)HUDs became augmented reality and Google Glass. Science fiction seemed to grind itself into the present.

The latency of culture is a function of the speed of information. Culture can’t change until new information has propagated and this used to take a long time.

When letters took weeks to arrive, that defined the threshold of assumed response. Now, thanks to Twitter, the latency of culture has decreased to almost nothing, as everyone shares news as soon as it might be true. The news media feels it needs to move in step, so it makes mistakes, as we were shown during the Boston bombings. Speed is as important as content, evidenced in the Oreo SuperBowl blackout tweet that went around the world.

Science fiction of the near future, from visionaries like William Gibson, collapsed into alternative versions of now, as we try to decode the increasingly weird present. No-one is laying out plans for how we are to move forward, and so we recycle the oldest idea in advertising – branded content.

Futurology is about mapping possible pathways. Without it, as Rushkoff suggests in Present Shock, planning gives way to ‘Apocalypto’, the hoping for an end of the ever decreasing circles of now, evinced by the endless, tiring, uses of the ‘death of’ narrative.

The death of the 30-second spot, of strategy, of traditional, of digital, or media. All are, basically, saying “We give up!”. We can’t find our way to the future and so, like all end-of-days nonsense, it means people give up on trying to find functional solutions for the problems.

Perhaps, then, we need to start thinking about the future again and start living up to the promises we made to ourselves and to the industry.

Marketing that was useful and beautiful, transparency of people and action that social media can deliver and distribute. Awesomeness created at the intersection of art, copy, Arduino and code,that can come about when we all learn to respect each other, department, silo, agency, client, and start working for the good of the industry and each other, as well as the bottom line.

The browser-based world wide web turned 20 this year. It’s finally ready.

Let’s start mapping out a future for our industry that doesn’t assume declining relevance and margins, but instead lets us help clients create value and make the world we live in, and the industry we work in, a nicer place.

Faris Yakob is the founder and principal of GeniusSteals. He is also the keynote speaker at the Innovation Afternoon on July 15, part of B&T’s MAD Week.

This article features in the current edition of B&T magazine, out now. 

Please login with linkedin to comment

Latest News

Highsnobiety Partners With Citizens Of Culture To Help Lead Its Media Partnerships In Australia
  • Media

Highsnobiety Partners With Citizens Of Culture To Help Lead Its Media Partnerships In Australia

Culture-leading publisher Highsnobiety continues to evolve its local operations with the appointment of Citizens of Culture as its strategic partner across media operations within Australia.  Highsnobiety is a premium global brand dedicated to cultural pioneers, with work spanning across digital platforms, print media, documentaries, cutting edge events, a shopping platform and a full service creative […]

Investigation Reveals That Amazon Destroys Thousands Of Dollars Of Unsold Stock, Including Laptops, TVs And Face Masks
  • Technology

Investigation Reveals That Amazon Destroys Thousands Of Dollars Of Unsold Stock, Including Laptops, TVs And Face Masks

An investigation by British broadcaster ITV has found that Amazon is destroying millions of items in unsold or returned stock. The report specifically focuses on one of the 24 warehouses the company has in the UK. According to ITV News, the destroyed items are largely unused and new, either returned items or those which never […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Witchery Partners With GlamCorner To Boost Subscription Shopping
  • Media

Witchery Partners With GlamCorner To Boost Subscription Shopping

Australian fashion brand Witchery has partnered with B Corp GlamCorner as part of GlamCorner’s subscription box offering as the demand for everyday essentials soars. This partnership marks another milestone for the Australian fashion industry towards becoming more circular and introducing more paths to reduce textile waste. Customers nationally will be able to rent more of […]

Curry Club For COVID-19 Relief, Powered By UnLtd, Challenges AdLand To Raise $100,000
  • Marketing
  • Media

Curry Club For COVID-19 Relief, Powered By UnLtd, Challenges AdLand To Raise $100,000

The media, marketing and creative industries are being encouraged to host their own ‘Curry Club for COVID’ before 30th June to help meet the ambitious $100k target set by its organisers. Curry Club for COVID, which was conceived by long-time adtech executive Peter Bray, sales director at Impact, and is powered by industry social purpose organisation […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
UnLtd’s ‘Goals for Good’ Soccer Tournament Celebrates 10 Years
  • Media

UnLtd’s ‘Goals for Good’ Soccer Tournament Celebrates 10 Years

The UnLtd Cup is returning for its tenth consecutive year, marking a decade of soccer shenanigans that’s raised nearly $500,000 for children’s mental health charity, KidsXpress. On July 22-23rd, 28 teams from across the industry will battle it out on the soccer field in the two-day tournament at Sydney University Sports and Fitness Centre, Darlington. […]

Mobile Pnone Shopping Online With A Debit Card
  • Marketing
  • Technology

Ultra Commerce Acquires Vesta eCommerce

Australian-bred company Ultra Commerce has acquired New Zealand-based company Vesta eCommerce, a global software business providing leading product data management solutions. The recent acquisition is a significant move for the business, which is Australian born, owned, and headquartered, but has built out a global presence as it pursues rapid growth in the eCommerce market. Connecting […]

Crater Teams Up With Director Luna Laure For ‘Harry’s Story’, Canteen’s Newest Campaign
  • Campaigns

Crater Teams Up With Director Luna Laure For ‘Harry’s Story’, Canteen’s Newest Campaign

Canteen’s latest campaign features the combined talents of Director Luna Laure and creative agency Crater. The campaign strives to raise awareness for young people affected by cancer. The awareness campaign centres around Harry Barentson, who at 12 years of age found out his pregnant mum had cancer. The campaign aims to bring awareness to Canteen’s […]