IFTF + You
The Technology Horizons program combines a deep understanding of technology and societal forces to identify and evaluate discontinuities and innovations in the next three to ten years. We help organizations develop insights and strategic tools to better position themselves for the future. Our approach to technology forecasting is unique—we put people at the center of our forecasts. Understanding humans as consumers, workers, householders, and community members allows IFTF to help companies look beyond technical feasibility to identify the value in new technologies, forecast adoption and diffusion patterns, and discover new market opportunities and threats.
2015 RESEARCH AGENDA
Human-Machine Futures: Algorithms, Identities, and Device Ensembles
We are engaged in a never-ending dance of coevolution with machines. Machines are all around us. We bring them to work, to eat, and even to bed. They provoke our imaginations, expanding what’s possible and what it means to be human. As we evolve with our machines, it inspires a new generation of innovations—a cycle that repeats itself over and over again. This cycle is nearly as old as humanity itself. Over the past century, though, this coevolution has accelerated. We’re on the verge of transformation on an entirely new scale. Technologies of automation are set to permanently alter how we get things done. And breakthroughs in computation and biology are set to spill out of research labs and into the hands of the everyday person, changing how we relate to life itself. As machines become more deeply embedded in our bodies and environments, the distinction between human and machine, natural and artificial, will blur. We’ll move beyond present-day debates around whether we are competing or cooperating with machines to open new forms of human-machine symbiosis and new varieties of human experience.
AN AUTOMATED WORLD: Technologies, Transformations, and Conflicts
Since humans first began creating machines, we’ve used them to help us do work that we don’t want to, or cannot, do ourselves. In the past quarter century, we’ve witnessed a seemingly impossible advancement in machines’ capabilities to get things done without our direct involvement. In the last decade alone, we’ve seen self-driving cars go from being unable to travel more than ten miles on empty desert roads to navigating over 700,000 miles globally, via highways and city streets.
But this is just the beginning. Similar advances in automation are coming to many other arenas of human activity like food preparation, complex manufacturing, and many white-collar job functions. In workplaces, artificially intelligent systems will help us do some jobs better, take others away, and generate new jobs entirely. In the home, automated systems will know where we are and assist us in everything from calendaring to caregiving. And at the city level, we’ll see automation become an embedded function of the systems that manage and control many aspects of our daily lives, creating new conveniences built on the careful orchestration and synchronicity of urban life.
This emerging automated world is made up of a set of component parts—foundational technologies that, in combination, make this future possible. We’ll kick off the 2015 research year by examining how these component technologies will be combined and configured to impact all aspects of human life. We will map opportunities and dilemmas at three scales: people and daily life, organizations and work, and cities and systems—creating forecasts of the affordances, conflicts, and transformations made possible by an automated world.
- Technologies of an Automated World: Card Deck—A collection of cards containing the foundational technologies of automation that integrate foresight and group process to support combinatorial forecasting and strategic insight.
- Life in an Automated World: Combinatorial Forecast Map—A map laying out the technological foundations of emerging forms of automation and forecasts exploring how they could be combined and remixed.
- Insight Workshop—A one-and-a-half day client-only session at IFTF on June 16–17.
BODY AREA NETWORKS: Optimizing for Work, Play, and Vitality
In the next decade, the most transformative technologies will be the emerging suite of devices that travel with us wherever we go: in our pockets, on our wrists, even inside our bodies. Better-than-human prosthetics, brainmachine interfaces, and sensors for tracking everything from sleep to stress to blood sugar are creating a new ecosystem of personal technologies—body area networks. This ecosystem opens the possibility of everything from brain-to-brain communication to virtual environments that overlap and blend with reality. In the next decade, we’ll be able to adopt and discard ephemeral identities, build social networks of machines, create crowd and collective identities, and interact with a variety of entities, from natural phenomena like forests to concepts like corporations and cities, as if they were human beings. When technology gets this personal and this powerful, the range of possible uses, experiences, and conflicts it opens up is nearly limitless.
Just as the home was an important arena for technology adoption, Body Area Networks represent a new frontier. But how will we configure these networks for health, work, entertainment, or intimacy? How will we get the most from the data they generate while ensuring privacy? How can we leverage these technologies to enhance relationships, express our feelings, or even change our definitions of self?
- Configuring Body Area Networks: Forecast Map of Uses and Strategies—Already, leading-edge users in work, health, entertainment, and sports are experimenting with Body Area Networks, configuring them to address their desires, concerns, and aspirations and, in the process, revealing the unmet needs and underlying demands that will shape the creation and adoption of these technologies in the future. By engaging these pioneers, as well as experts, we’ll map the range of ways that people will remix and reconfigure Body Area Networks to remake their lives.
- New Machines, New Identities: Forecast Perspectives of Emerging Identities—Machines have always created new identities for humans. The invention of the car was also the invention of the motorist, the mechanic, and the gearhead. However, the effects that technology will have on identity in the next decade will be more profound than anything we’ve witnessed before. As different uses and configurations of Body Area Networks proliferate, it will be these new identities that will largely shape human experience. This series of perspectives will forecast how these emerging identities will intersect with—and be enabled by—different configurations of Body Area Networks.
While machines are rapidly transforming the human experience, they’re also transforming our relationship with other biologies—plants, animals, and entire ecosystems—and providing us with new insight into the basis of life itself. Technologies of automation and Body Area Networks give us an unprecedented look at ourselves and the world around us—from the scale of microbes all the way up to interplanetary relationships. This data will fuel a plethora of potential advances, unlocking a host of new ways to sculpt people and the planet. In a forecast of 10 combinatorial biological futures, we’ll highlight transformations that shift not only the way we think about ourselves and our bodies but open up the ability to create new life forms and enlist them to clean the environment, alter existing life forms to make them more resilient, and create new bio-inspired products and services that transform the material world both around and inside us.
- Forecast Map—We will identify a set of transformative biological futures and their underlying technological foundations—from synthetic biology to the microbiome to biomimcry and bio-inspired manufacturing. This forecast map will highlight innovators making this future now and serve as a strategic tool for present-day choices as you consider a range of combinatorial forecasts at the intersection of these transformative biological futures and your organization.
ANNUAL FORESIGHT RETREAT: October 22-23, 2015
Our 2015 research will culminate in an open and collaborative two-day gathering in the San Francisco Bay Area on October 22–23. This event will give attendees a chance to immerse themselves in human-machine futures, identify strategic insights, and get hands-on experience with innovation processes and tools with a network of technology innovators, makers, and disruptive thinkers.
Technology is all around us. Rarely, though, do we get a chance to talk to the people who create it—those who shape tomorrow’s technology and the way we interact with it. Our community event series [+TECH] changes all that. At these evening events, expert speakers give short “ignite” talks sharing their visions of how technology will shape industry in the coming decade.
These [+TECH] speakers sit at the edge of technical reality and worldchanging possibilities. They are leaders and game changers from the areas of design, robotics, medicine, human-computer interaction, hardware design, materials science, and more. Guests are also technology makers and aficionados, which results in high-level, fascinating Q&A sessions and conversations throughout.
Each event in the series takes a deep dive into the technology of a specific area or industry, and the series as a whole gives a broad view of the technological landscape.