The IFTF Blog
When Everything is Media: The Future of Communication and Technology
Technology Horizons 2016 Research Agenda
In the 1960s, Paul Baran, one of the founders of the Institute for the Future, envisioned a move from centralized communications to a distributed system, where nodes would automatically route packets of information to final destinations distributed across the globe—a network architecture, that over the last several decades, has formed the backbone for today’s Internet. This move from centralized to distributed systems is transforming institutions, economies, and how we coordinate to get things done. Looking out to 2025, we can see the outlines of a transformation in communications that will be equally profound: we will be marketing to machines, receiving messages from our bodies, and reinventing how we communicate, collaborate, persuade, and build relationships in a hyperconnected and distributed world where everything is becoming media.
In 2016, IFTF’s Technology Horizons program will map this transformation and highlight the emerging technologies and strategies we’ll use to amplify and connect with the world around us and to each other.
From always-on smartphones to networked teddy bears to digital interfaces integrated into our own bodies, we are becoming immersed in a cloud of communications. Over the next decade, the ways we collaborate, connect, and communicate will multiply and decouple from the limits of place, time, and even language. Fragmentation will accelerate as we struggle to communicate meaningful data in glanceable forms, amidst constant competition for our time and attention. Meanwhile, collaboration has never been more important as we’re increasingly called to work across generations, geographies, scales, and even with bots and machines.
While all of this seems to point toward a world of fractured attention, it conceals a future of tools, interfaces, and technologies that could bring coherence and precision to the ways we communicate and share information and knowledge. Today’s early signals point the way. Adaptive interfaces analyze a pilot’s brainwaves to adjust the amount and form of data they’re viewing in real-time to accommodate stress levels—hinting at a future where not only will our messages be personalized but adapted to our circumstances measured at the granular, biological level. Meanwhile, increasingly sophisticated machine learning algorithms test and execute ever-complex advertising campaigns, pushing us ever closer to a true science of marketing.
These new communications tools, technologies, and applications aren’t just ushering in a future of targeted personalization but also altering how we connect emotionally. Smart clothing will deliver to a sports fan tactile, visceral sensations as she watches a game from her living room, while couples will share immersive intimate moments across vast distances. Indeed, virtual reality technology may deliver the perceived experience of swapping your body with another person.
Join us as we embark on a year-long exploration of the reinvention of communication. We will map the rapidly changing networked and distributed communications landscape to uncover the tools, interfaces, and technologies with a focus on:
- Productivity: How will we get things done and optimize systems?
- Persuasion: How will we motivate and shape individual or collective behavior change?
- Engagement: How will we harness participation and attention?
- Collaboration: How will we innovate and generate value?
- Intimacy: How will we enhance physical or emotional connection?
- Empathy: How will we experience and see the world through other people’s eyes?
- Control: How will we secure our identities and privacy in an interconnected and transparent world?
We will deliver deeper perspectives on leading edge practices and strategies in three arenas: organizations, people, and machine-to-machine communications. Using our map of the decade as a starting point, we will dive deep into these three domains to forecast new strategies and identify hidden opportunities to reinvent how we connect, communicate, and collaborate.
The year will be structured around a set of deliverables and events designed to immerse you in future possibilities, exchange ideas, and jumpstart your strategies. We look forward to partnering with you.
Technology Horizons 2016 Deliverables
Winter 2016: Regional Expert Workshops
We’ll start the year by hosting a series of workshops with experts and lead users. Designed to engage some of the leading thinkers—and makers—of new media and communication, these sessions will give sponsors opportunities to meet the innovators making the future of communications and share early insights and take-aways.
Spring 2016: Future of Communications and Collaboration: Map of the Decade and Conference
At our Spring conference, we will share our Map of the Decade exploring the future of communication and collaboration. Designed as a research exchange and working session, you’ll gain foresight into the foundational technologies and user behaviors driving the future of communications.
Summer 2016: Machines as the New Consumer Class
The communications landscape is not simply being transformed by new ways that we create connections with each other, but by the rise of interconnected machines that can negotiate transactions and exchanges of energy and information, move markets, make purchases and even navigate physical spaces. To explore this landscape, IFTF will produce a report highlighting the technologies of communicating machines as well as a set of Alternative Future Scenarios depicting how a world of communicating machines will reshape our world.
Fall 2016: Immersive Learning Experiences
During the fall, we will reconvene in Palo Alto for a series of immersive site visits and a research exchange to explore how these technologies will be harnessed in several key domains: organizations, people, and machine-to-machine. During the immersion, you’ll have the opportunity to meet leading technologists, learn from media makers, and identify new opportunities for a world in which everything is media.