The “internet of things”, the sweeping tech revolution we are living, is as scary to many as it is exciting to some. This revolution may even have in store, dreams come true. For baby boomers they are dreams from past times, for the Gen X and Millenials amongst us they are only recounted. Either way they are dreams of power. The flower power kind; albeit an upgraded one.
In a post Occupy world, organizations everywhere should contemplate the themes that flooded the undercurrent of one of the greatest consumer uprisings in recent history — Brian Solis
The social media revolution in a silo has come and passed. Using the lure of democratized information access and production, it has huddled the masses online; promising total freedom of expression, of the people, by the people for a new tomorrow. ‘Social’ did jump start the Internet of Things (IoT) and is now an integral enabler of our lives in both form an substance.
Mobile connectivity, initiated the internet’s push back from desks and couches into the wild. And the Internet of Things only accelerated its expansion ever since: TVs, cars, homes and even glasses have been hooked back up to the ‘almighty’ cloud. If those mundane objects can have a life, why not the billion others in existence? Why couldn’t every existing thing be shrouded in a digital layer and, virtually be made alive. What will those things tell us about our very selves and our environment then? How could ‘listening’ to those things, make our lives better? Easier, faster, maybe even fairer, healthier and richer.
“Everywhere we go in the world, the things that we come across aren’t intelligent. Like this wall that I’m looking at, it’s just separating the room from the other side. In actuality, that wall should be intelligent. The next 10 years [will be] nuts.” — will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas, Intel’s Director of Creative Innovation
The digital shrouding of things is the revolution we are living. This, is the new frontier to be conquered.
The Hippie movement peaked in an unsustainable haze of psychedelic rock, sexual excesses and altered states of consciousness, on the backs of cannabis, LSD and magic mushrooms. It culminated, at a music festival north of New York City, in a small country town called, Woodstock. But it behooves us to note the similarities and the differences that might just make the Internet of Things closer to fulfilling the similar promise of a new world.
Our world is a reflection of ourselves, thus the revolution has long been coming. Complete with dreams of change and power. What implications on our desires, aspirations and ability to effect change on our world? To what extent will dreams of a new world, be now enabled by technology?
“If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things —using data they gathered without any help from us— we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost.” — Kevin Ashton, RFID father, coined the term “Internet of Things“
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We are only at the beginning, it is estimated that 99% of things in the world are still not connected. According to @CiscoSystems’ very own futurist, Dave Evans aka @DaveTheFuturist, we’re now entering the Internet of Everything (IoE) era. Cisco recently estimated the impact of IoE at a very respectable $14.4 Trillion.
In February, Le Web 2013 announced its subject: “Digital Hippies: Create a New Sharing Economy“. Le Web is a forward looking, large tech conference taking place every year in Europe.
The event’s organizers are usually right on the money when it comes to foreseeing online and digital trends. This time, it is touching on a rather “soft” point, aiming at the substance of the digital revolution, rather than its form.
Although this year’s subject wording is not fortuitous, Loic Lemeur aka @Loic and Le Web’s founder, is quick to distance his organization from the flower power movement in his video announcement. I’ll grant him that today’s undercurrent has considerably evolved over the past 50 years.
— Yesterday —
The original flower power movement started in the 1950s, with the beret-wearing beatniks hailing from New York and it continued with the hippie movement in the mid-1960s. In the very Mecca where the current digital revolution has its roots: San Francisco, California.
The first known use of the word hippie was in 1965, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary. The term is thought to have originated from hip, which some attributed to hipi, a word in the West African Wolof language meaning “to open one’s eyes”.
In his 1964 autobiography, Malcolm X referred to the word hippy as a term African Americans used to describe a specific type of white man who “acted more Negro than Negroes“. Harry Gibson, a boogie woogie virtuoso of the time who claims to have first coined the word hipster, [iframe width=”320″ height=”240″ align=’left’ style=”margin: 5px 10px;” src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/Ql-1_uolBF4″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>] certainly fits that description in this video.
Today’s geeks that fuel the construction of the Internet of Things, can certainly be qualified as hipsters. Their eyes opened, by the prospect of dust speck-sized sensors, to the possibilities of the new world ahead. Where their ancestors, in internet-time terms, used conscience altering substances to “open their eyes”; today’s hipsters are using technology to do the same, making the ideal goal of a new way of life far more sustainable and reachable.
As a testimonial to these hipsters aspirations, suffice to look at a recent Accenture study that shows men and women no longer defining career success by the amount of money they make. Putting work-life balance — ahead of money, recognition and autonomy; more than half of those surveyed report to have turned down a job offer because of the potential impact on their work-life balance. This aspiration is certainly not new but now, technology is enabling and empowering these hipsters to demand it as an element of a better quality of life.
— Today —
In many aspects, today’s rekindled dreams of power, live in a world where karma fearing and forward payments are ways of life. Anyone spending any amount of social time online can attest to the ever-growing ‘karma religion’, illustrated by the myriad motivational messages and quotes shared that run the range of corniest to most inspirational. Conversations about positivity, the strive to help and the obligation to pay it forward, seem more socially acceptable today. Conversations on the subjects abound, in contexts as disparate as selling apps to building real estate businesses, to fighting cancer, to getting rich, to saving the world from climate change. Listen to wine-loving-business-man-social-media-celebrity-thank-you-saying-advocate, Gary Vaynerchuk aka @GaryVee.
Questions come up as to where this undercurrent is stemming from: is it that humans have a basic good nature that has recently been enabled by technology? Or it is the endemic oxytocin addiction? More specifically:
- Has all this need for positivity always existed? If we believe the above good-natured assertion,
probably to a certain extent. Was it brought on by our recent superability to connect with each other? Maybe it started with, and continues to feed on, the surge in oxytocin brain levels brought on by the use of social media. Oxytocin is a brain chemical called cuddle hormone or trust molecule, responsible for empathy. Will we all progressively turn into oxytocin-addicts, oblivious to the realities of our physical world? Sort of like the 60s’ hippies were? Floating to the demise of their ideal of love, equality and acceptance, in a psychedelic haze of rock, sex and drugs? Or…
- Are we slowly progressing towards a better functioning world enabled by technology? A world pressured to change from all sides by the failures of its fundamentals and the power of a Metcalfed technology. Failures pooled from the depth of individual minds to the surfaces of the social web. A world with new values and yardsticks, a world of de facto win-wins for starters. A world where technology, the Digital Revolution and the Internet of Things and Everything, all together expand the human brain abilities beyond its strictest primal needs, enabling more productivity and effectiveness, new ways to pronounce judgments and make decisions for a better quality of life.
— Tomorrow —
Time will tell. One thing is for sure: the internet of things is changing expectations and if expectations change, behaviors will change as a result. Amy Cuddy, a social scientist, in her recent TED talk demonstrates that expectations affect behaviors and behaviors affect outcomes. She concludes to not mean “fake it until you make it but until you become it“. Our behaviors are, to a large extent, affected by what we expect there to be in store as a result, thus affecting our achievements in turn.
Thus if we agree that the desire to change one’s world is in pent up demand, will pooling these expectations over the billions of technology-enabled connections establishing themselves everyday, be the world changing tipping force?
So far, Millenials’ concerns seem in line to somehow, affect their environment on a deeper level. In 2007, cancer, animal rights and education were their top causes. This year, education, ending poverty, and the environment are their key concerns according to The Intelligence Group. Will their sustained digital activism via a mobile device, from the comfort of distance from inconvenience, effect real change? Or will their noise drown and weaken disparate actions, occurring over too long of time periods? If we are to believe @DaveTheFuturist, the ubiquity of technology may trump willpower and bridge that gap.
“They [Millennials] actualize their most important values and stand behind them with every thing they do to bring about change.” — Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis aka @BrianSolis in this Forbes article
Since human behavior always defaults to the least amount of effort, expectations and thus behaviors and achievements, will continue to shift; further compounded by the increasing omnipresence of the Internet of Things.
Expectations will shift from searching for a product or service or even for an ideology or a cause; to expecting to being somehow engaged about it, whenever the need arises or behavior calls for it. As a result, it will be even less about which organization is the loudest or even the most engaging. It will be about the one that’s smartest about knowing its community, and maintaining in place the right triggers to activate the most relevant engagement, at the most appropriate time. Picture the shift in business behavior this will demand. Picture the need in listening and analytical power required. Picture also the level of relevance the current way of doing business has.
To conclude and underscore the magnitude of change we are living; if two in three Millennials believe a person on a computer spreading the word, can create more change than a person on the street, rallying or protesting.
I wonder: what makes them so sure? Is that belief factual? Is it a some type of faith? In what? Technology only? Or is it simply the oxytocin addiction speaking?
I wonder: How will the omnipresence of a tech shroud on all existing things, affect a population that not only increasingly report not identifying with any religion (Pew Research Center) but also overwhelmingly believe, and across political party lines, in themes eerily reminiscent of cliches from the 1960s?
To be continued…