The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

theinevitableThis was a really interesting read for me. Trying to put myself in the mind of someone who has tracked technology since the beginning of the internet and understand what he is trying to say.

The trends Kelly identifies are not about the technology that delivers them. They are about the intertwining of our technical and social systems and how they end up looking different over time. I wanted to write this blog to record the 12 trends so that I could come back and ponder them as they reveal themselves as trends in my life and experiences.

  1. Becoming: nothing is static, it is always heading toward a destination – it is always becoming. The example here is continual updates. No longer do we buy once and stop. We instead maintain a system through updates. Or we access SAAS offering which are continually updated behind the scenes. Understanding that its a process rather than a destination will help us rethink what we try to build. Of course the big trend missed in the 90’s was how many people would provide the content of the internet. the big media companies thought they were the controlling force. This diverse human creativity is part of the reason our technology is always becoming.
  2. Cognifying: Artificial intelligence is coming at us. Like the internet of the 90’s, we are only just starting to understand some of the ways this could change things. If we can hand over cognitive grind, what would we prioritise with out time? Letting robots into our lives, finding ways they can help us, finding things they can do that we couldn’t… is all part of the future. “let robots take our jobs, and let them help us dream up new work that matters”
  3. Flowing: This is rich chapter and grapples with the ways we discover value when copying stuff is ubiquitous and free. In many ways this has been the challenge of the media companies since the dawn of the internet and Kelly imagines the death of static in favour of ways that our media “flows” and morphs continually. He cites generative values that are generated at the point of exchange: immediacy, personalisation, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage, discoverability. And he argues there are 4 stages of flowing: Fixed,Rare. Free,Ubiqitous. Flowing,Sharing. Opening,Becoming.
  4. Screening: This is a trend predicted in The Circle. Our interaction interface is becoming screens for so many dimensions of our lives. Kelly paints a picture of watches, glasses, VR relaxation, desktops, kitchens and tables all screening at us continually throughout the day.
  5. Accessing: Access becomes more important than ownership. Real time, on demand, decentralised. through platforms and in the cloud. The digital native with complete freedom from possessions and flexibility in choices and lifestyles.
  6. Sharing: Like Clay Shirky, Kelly recognises that sharing is easy and it becomes harder as you move up to Cooperation, Collaboration and finally Collectivism. But now that sharing has become the norm we will continue to move through to bigger outcomes.
  7. Filtering: More filtering is inevitable as we produce more, overwhelming content. Everyone is trying to tweak the algorithm to get their stuff in front of you. But we will make new ways to filter and personalise so that we can get what we need.
  8. Remixing: We know that remixing is leading to new approaches. There is an ongoing conversation about IP and copyright and whether they hinder our social progress. Kelly’s bold statement is that ” In 30 years, the most important cultural works and the most powerful mediums will be those that have been remixed the most”.
  9. Interacting: Virtual reality has a long way to go but has also come a long way. It will get better with more senses, more intimacy and more immersion. Interactivity will be considered the norm and if something doesn’t interact smartly it will be considered broke.
  10. Tracking: This is where data collection is taking us. Enormous amounts of information that we can use to better understand ourselves, our collective behaviour and our world. This is what the internet of things will do.
  11. Questioning: Questioning is more powerful than answering and Kelly gives a list of reasons a good question helps us progress. This is the basis for asserting that questioning is a skill for the future.
  12. Beginning: In a sense much of the story thus far is aimed at demonstrating how we are only just seeing the inklings of what is possible. Indeed, we are at the beginning…

If you like thinking about the future, and don’t mind a bit of techno-utopia, this is a book to read.

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About Heather

I am an energy and climate change specialist with a background in industrial energy efficiency and climate change policy.
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