We had incredible technological and societal changes throughout 2015 and 2016. Checks were being written for companies shaping the circular and sharing economies, content and social media, new influencer networks, wearables, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and big data analytics. Up until this point it felt like a test run.
We have been testing and poking our way into establishing new solutions to old problems and, as consumers, we have embraced more new technologies than ever before.
This road has not been easy, but in 2017 we will surely find a momentum and pace that will exponentially grow society through technology more than in the previous five to 10 years. And, it will truly feel like we are entering what I call a “psychedelic cultural reality.”
Our perceptions will be changed through the use of technology in our pockets, on our bodies and through our eyes and ears. This seems ironic to me, as scientists and entrepreneurs and their use of psychedelics birthed the modern personal computer and mobile age. This is the key, and the link. We are evolving, becoming transhumans — not by our own free will. We are living in multiple virtual places at once, with devices, data and algorithms ruling our lives. Transcendence? Hardly.
Let me elaborate. In 1967, Timothy Leary spoke at the Human Be-In, a gathering of 30,000 hippies in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and urged everyone to “turn on, tune in, drop out.”
We are looking to technology to help us be soothed and escape.
I feel that 50 years later, in 2017, millennials and Gen Xers also feel as disillusioned and desperate for change as those young people back then.
At the end of 2016, kakistocracy — government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens — is taking the lead from democracy and carefully considered political moves, and the majority are plugged into this newly curated “psychedelic cultural” reality where content, the news feed and hearsay have taken control. We are looking to technology to help us be soothed and escape.
We will strive to find the truth
Many people around the world are starting to crave personal accountability and will want to take action in one way or another. U.K. documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis is saying that we are suffering from a condition called “hypernormalization” — i.e. we are so much a part of the system that we cannot see beyond it. We cannot recognize new solutions. This lack of awareness, and the inability to efficiently feed into the system and stand out from the noise, is what has led us to two of the most controversial democratic acts in 2016 — Brexit and President-elect Trump. We need to get woke.
Brits are waking up to the choice they made with Brexit, and Americans are waking up to what Trump is unleashing on the world — poorly rationalized decisions and continued sharing of thin information and facts that can be barely seen as truth. Or, just absolute confusion around what’s going to happen next. These events have truly ushered in a post-factual democracy with a tsunami of false information that has manifested kakistocracy in many of the most powerful countries in the world.
It’s clear that some people will want to escape within reality, and some will want to fight and stand up for what’s right. To redress kakistocracy we need to tune in to online news channels and share our thoughts. We also need to actively contribute factual opinion to content networks using platforms like Facebook Live, Twitter and Snap to help create critical mass in discussions from the people taking part.
Truth. New realities. Realism and deeper connections. What next?
This is where the fight against kakistocracy, and its actors, will gain momentum. But, there will need to be careful review of this content by those networks to ensure integrity, and I feel that algorithmic review will not be good enough (for now). Going forward we will need greater collaboration between journalists, news agencies and these technology companies. This is becoming clear today.
In 2017, I predict at least one global power democratic decision being overturned and unrest beginning (unfortunately, or fortunately — whichever way you see it) and that will be accelerated by social content networks and activists writing for larger publications that accelerate the sentiment of the few to the masses.
A question of reality
On a lighter note, we will strive to find new ways of getting inspired and immersed in new experiences as the world becomes more difficult to navigate. We will crave information delivered quicker and easier than before, and that will arm us with the information needed to question authority and root our position in the world.
Virtual, augmented and mixed reality will truly grow up alongside social media to create an engagement and dialogue never seen before. This will be an enabler to new forms of social and political engagement.
Psychedelic orator and philosopher Terence McKenna said it well: “Most people think it’s far out if we get VR up and running. This is more profound than that. This is the real thing. It’s a philosophical journey, and the vehicles are not simply cultural but biological itself. We’re closing distance with the most profound event that a planetary ecology can encounter, which is the freeing of life from the chrysalis of matter.”
Microsoft HoloLens is here, Magic Leap is coming (watch out for that bombshell) and by some accounts — looking at you Robert Scoble — Apple is about to change the mobile augmented reality game (Source: virtualrealitypop).
We’ll have available at an instant games, movies, loyalty systems, medical procedures, mechanics, virtual telepresence, holographic high-fives and connections with friends far and near. The companies behind this hardware and the content providers will need to maintain a holistic view of all moving parts to ensure integrity. It needs to be collaborative, and it will certainly be disruptive via the content it will carry and the deeper connections it will enable.
This disruptive technology will provide contextual information to empower individuals to make better decisions every day, and this will help redress the balance toward democracy.
A new hope?
Truth. New realities. Realism and deeper connections. What next?
Well, with all of the discussions of artificial intelligence and automation hitting the workforce, I think we will need to start making moves toward some new ways of working, as well. As millennials and Gen Xers strive toward having more meaningful existences, we will see even less ownership of homes, vehicles and materialistic possessions. We will see a shift toward building tight-knit communities and bringing up families with new values as the sharing economy grows stronger. And, this will help bolster the circular economy, as well.
As we aspire to live more sustainably and better for the planet by subscribing to the use of renewables, we will engage in the maker community and embrace the zero-marginal economy, which will start to lead us into great new territories — with certain parts of North America, specifically California and the Pacific Northwest, leading the charge.
At the heart of this change will be the technologies that are put in our hands so that we have a voice and can collaborate to take action and restore what true democracy must be — fair, empowering and executed with the will of the people.
So, 2017 we are ready for you. It’s going to be an uncomfortable, strange start to three to five years of big changes. Changes like we have never seen before — and there will be no “dropping out.” There will be many more efficient ways for us all to tune in — and that is what we must do to ensure open-minded liberal thought and democracy is placed firmly back at the center of our society.
Welcome to the future.