Opinion

Humanity is addicted to technology – and the more we progress the more we will welcome it

As technological devices become increasingly part of our lives, they will be implantable, invisible and we will start to merge with them. And these pose a vast opportunity for marketers, writes Chris Stephenson

The merging of humanity and technology is inevitable, and will have big implications for marketing.

The technology we increasingly use to augment our lives can often feel like magic. The ability to conjure any of the world’s information by talking to a machine, would be incomprehensible to most people even a few decades ago.

It’s hard to imagine that in the 1950s only a handful of computers were even in existence. Behemoth-sized machines were the size of a small room, they weighed a ton and cost the equivalent of $4 million. A far cry from the devices we depend upon today.

Google often refers to their products and technology as ‘auto-magical’. It just effortlessly works. Tasks become easier and technology provides solutions with minimum user effort.

This utility is addictive. Some technology can impact the pleasure systems of the brain, making it pleasurable to feel connected and empowered by technology. This pleasure can become highly addictive, in fact research suggests that around 40 per cent of people have some level of internet-based addiction.

Not only are these tech solutions a ‘nice to have’ they actually reframe our expectations. We expect things to happen ‘automagically’ and become frustrated and disgruntled when they don’t.  Who can imagine a time when they physically had to get up off the sofa to change their TV channel or had to read a timetable to work out when the next bus arrives? These things would be considered laborious and pointless now. Technology has changed what we feel is acceptable and there’s no going back.

So where could this addiction to technology take us?

Ultimately the more we depend on it, the more it replaces our menial tasks and the more intuitive and simple the interface becomes, the more it turns to face us. We want and need to become closer to it. Just like that horrible feeling you get when you’ve left your mobile phone at home, we won’t be able to be parted from it. Our devices will become part of us, they will be implantable, invisible and ever present. We will start to merge with technology.

This may sound like science fiction, but elements of this are already happening around us. Examples of ‘Trans- humanism’ are beginning to emerge. Whether it’s companies offering implantable chips to staff to help facilitate their work, or technology being able to enhance the boundaries of human senses, we are increasingly more accepting of these blurring boundaries.

The wheels of this merge are already in motion.

In the 1990s, search engines were the first way we started to organise information into an accessible and digestible way. The current emergence of machine learning and narrow AI is creating vast improvements in the extraction of data. Products like Google Home, Siri and Fitbits are helping to make sense of the information we produce, in conjunction with the internet, in more relevant and useful ways. That’s where we are now – Technology as a tool for extraction. But this isn’t where our journey ends. It’s been predicted that by 2020 there will be over four billion people online, and by 2025 the invention of superfast 5G and smartphone adoption at 6.1 billion our reliance on technology will only intensify.

At this point, technology doesn’t just make sense of the world around us, it starts to pre-empt our wants and needs. Virtual personal assistants become anticipatory. We will find our self-driving taxis automatically waiting for us whenever and wherever we need them. Our fridges will know when we’ve run out of milk and will make the purchase on our behalf. Our ‘Tinder Assistant’ will even arrange dates based on AI-driven algorithms to maximise compatibility from who we spend our time with.

Internet of things Disruption everything , neural network , deep learning , artificial intelligence concept. 3d rendering of robot face , blue bokeh and building abstract background.

The implications for marketing and communications planning are vast and profound. As we begin marketing products and services to algorithm-based assistants over humans, our practices will shift accordingly, moving towards the ‘access right-now’ economy, disrupting established retail and distribution channels, and shifting category dynamics and competitive sets. Marketers and their partners will need to navigate a vast array of technology driven changes, and the resulting challenges.

Two decades from now in the elevating phase, artificial general intelligence, nano-tech, bio-tech and quantum computing will lead to humanity and technology becoming indistinguishable from one another. In his book, The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil suggests that technology “will transform our frail version 1.0 human bodies into their far more durable and capable version 2.0 counterparts”.

Some will argue that this technological advancement won’t happen as quickly as predicted; that infrastructural, behavioural and social barriers will hamper these developments. These factors may be true, but while they may slow the advancement of technology, they won’t stop its progression.

Our increasing dependence on devices that make our lives easier, coupled with the way utility becomes highly addictive, means humanity’s merge with technology is inevitable. What’s more, most of us will welcome it with open, and technologically augmented, arms.

Chris Stephenson is PHD APAC Head of Strategy and Planning. PHD will premiere their documentary, Merge | The closing gap between technology and us, today at Mumbrella360,

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