The Economist report on Our Nomadic Future begins: “SOMETIMES the biggest changes in society are the hardest to spot precisely because they are hiding in plain sight. It could well be that way with wireless communications. Something that people think of as just another technology is beginning to show signs of changing lives, culture, politics, cities, jobs, even marriages dramatically. In particular, it will usher in a new version of a very old idea: Nomadism.”
Every trend has a counter trend, and each advancement brings opportunities and challenges. These produce a range of individual and societal responses. Responses can be categorized into two brackets:
• “Above the line” enhanced developmental responses
• “Below the line” pathologies
Here are some key technological developments and the trends they are bringing. Following this list are challenges and opportunities, which I call here “challentunities”. The personal responses, as well as the responses of society as a whole will likely produce both “above” and “below” the line outcomes.
Total connectivity trends
1. Ubiquitous and permanent connectivity (planet-wide Wi-Fi hotspot)
2. Faster cellular networks with wider coverage
3. Total gadgets synchronization and migration
4. On-the-beach, in-the-park office – the placeless office (Work from anywhere)
5. No entry barriers
6. Everybody doing everything on the move
7. Blurring and integration of the productive and the social (work & Life)
8. High fidelity voice recognition (freeing up your hands)
9. Omnipresent video conferencing takes the Internet’s cyberspace out of the box and into live conversation.
10. Online personal cameras making each person a potential TV reporter in real time.
These connectivity trends have created and most likely will continue to create physical, psychological, social and moral “challentunities” – challenges and opportunities:
Societal (Lower Right quadrant) “challentunities” will include:
1. Space – as you are freed up from your desk and office, space will be redesigned. Closed, private, dedicated spaces will be replaced by multi functional spaces wherein people work, socialize, play, meditate, study and discover. Boardrooms, town hall meetings, schoolrooms will become less brick and mortar, less geographically centered and more responsive to real time needs.
2. Home – work spaces in homes will be re-envisioned and reconfigured. Just as the TV migrated from the living room and appeared in the kitchen, bedroom and yes, even in the laundry room so, too will the connectivity expand beyond the desktop or laptop into the very walls of our homes. Appliances will morph into multi-utility centers of controlling the domestic ecology, monitoring our energy usage and relieving the homeowner from some of the more mundane iterations of work and home maintenance as well as provide ultimate accessibility to unlimited reference.
3. City – city centers, work centers, social services, utility and essential infrastructure will be redefined with population movement less dependant on industrially based mega centers or large metropolitan service industries.
4. Transportation – the car, its usage and traffic will be redesigned (converging with the imperative of energy shift away from oil). The increasing number of telecommuters and the expanding work week where individuals are ‘working’ whether or not they are actually at the office will transform traffic patterns.
5. Work – what you do at work, how you do your work, who you meet with at work and how meetings are held, how they happen and what can be achieved in them — will change and be redefined. Job descriptions and responsibilities will also flex and shift into new parameters as discoveries and innovations are incorporated into the workplace.
6. Company – the company and the corporate entity will be redesigned. Market economy in the way it’s been practiced in the last 70 years is reaching an inflection point. World wide access, merging interests, and foremost global, planet-wide interests will reshape corporate agendas. The dictatorship of the “quarterly profits” is reaching a point of inefficiency and ineffective measure. The greater imperatives of society and planetary economy will drive the evolution of the corporation as well as the framework of the market.
7. Media – It’s already here but only utilized by one percent. Imagine every person having the potential and power to become their own transmitting cable channel in real time.
8. Nation – possibly the way of the republic, its politics and its participative democracy will be re-defined, as WE THE PEOPLE discover our greater power. Our integration with the world economy and environmental interdependence will increasingly bring change and new perspective into our national priorities.
The Cultural (Lower left quadrant) “challentunities” will include:
1. Being fully present – in a world of total connectivity the biggest challenge, and the biggest blessing and gift is to be fully present. To have a completely engaged communication is to be at the point – to be fully present in your conversation.
2. Isolation – total connectivity can mean total isolation with its challenges and pathologies, the reduced need to interact in person can affect social skills and aptitudes.
3. Family – its ways and meaning, how it evolves, its ability to stay connected and sustain itself will be challenged and revitalized.
4. Friends – their place in your life, how you stay connected and interact will change and evolve. The increasing speed of everyday transactions will continue to force people into sound-bite relationships, prioritizing when and how to connect in a deeper way.
5. Community – how it is defined, what it can influence, what it does and means to you as an extension of family and friends, work and active participation will evolve as our priorities shift .
6. Meaning-making – the dynamics of how individuals and groups interface, connect and co-create will evolve. We will discover new ways for individuals and groups to co-create and make-meaning together.
7. Language – All of these aspects will lead to further evolution of language and ways of sharing meaning. Both written language and, even more so, oral culture will continue to shape-shift and evolve to describe concepts that are newly appearing as we move into the future.
Internal dimension (Upper left and right quadrants)
As virtualization liberates people from the cubicle prisons, and “the tyranny of place gives way to the tyranny of time”, the big leverage point is mindshare: the algorithm of mind-place and mind-time. The key opportunities and challenges “challentunities” will include:
1. Freedom – are you leveraging total connectivity to greater freedom and greater self control or are you becoming subject to it?
2. Recharge – are you able to “turn it off” and have down time? Are you able to rest and recharge?
3. Autonomy – do you enjoy increased autonomy or do you find growing dependency?
4. Prioritization – how do you optimize prioritization and decision making in a data saturated shape-shifting environment?
5. Engagement – where is your mind at any given time? How do you best engage your whole brain/mind?
6. Service – what is your mind processing? What are you serving?
7. Clarity – are you able to maintain clarity and focus? How do you go about it?
8. Alignment – how do you maintain and upgrade alignment to goals, aims and your most essential values?
9. Presence – are you able to be fully present in the here and now?
10. Purpose – are you finding a way to replenish and re-connect to what matters most, to your purpose?
© Aviv Shahar