If you were to Google “predictions for 2017,” you would be rewarded with 66,700,000 links. Among the top three are terrifying prophecies revealed (yet again) by Nostradamus, various quack theories from numerologists and world psychics and real insightful predictions from the likes of the Gartner Group, Forrester, Forbes, TechCrunch and several design blogs. Because predicting the future of the entire media and tech field would end up being about 2,000 strategic predictions, here are my best 12:
- From the Edge to the Middle — The new administration’s unique relationship with veracity and its inventive press conferences portends a new trend— where the truth comes from the edges, not the center. In his MSNBC interview, Professor Jay Rosen, referencing his Pressthinkarticle Winter is Coming: Prospects for the American Press Under Trump, suggests that we “start from the rim of the government… people on the margin, to get a take on informed policy.” This approach to locating the truth will also play well for strategic planning of innovative new models for corporations, museums, retail and visitor’s centers.
- Smart Becomes Smarter — Most smart embedded technology today is dumb. Directional mapping programs give you binary locational information or like Apple Maps, often the worst possible route. The fallacy of the Internet of Things is that, unlike the internet, the internet of Things is a diverse set of competing technologies, devices and protocols that don’t talk to each other. Like Amazon Echo, Nest thermostats and Apple TV. Many embedded systems have limited capabilities, either by design or limitations of current technology. Aside from the argument that smart technology is causing us to devolve, the increasing integration of targeted artificial intelligence in cognitive computing and natural language platforms like Apple’s Siri, IBM’s Watson and Microsoft’s Azure is going to make our devices a lot more capable, flexible and useful. See prediction 12.
- The Climate Goes Private — Which way federal funding for climate change research will go in this new administration is anyone’s guess, but predictably it will decrease, if not entirely disappear. While the federal government is not great at picking market winners, it is great at large infrastructure projects, like the Internet and the interstate highway system. As the Fed’s climate change dollars dries up, it's easy to imagine that climate-conscious private investment firms will pick up the slack. The opportunities will be in innovative sustainable design and manufacturing, new categories of products like Nest, waste management, and business and design opportunities for resiliency planning for cities.
- Museum Experiences Invade Retail — The impact on retail of digital technologies along with the increase of online shopping is forcing brands to rethink their strategies. In our experience economy, people crave authentic experiences and opportunities for participation. Stores need to become more than just a place to shop. Retailers will have to engage their customers in new ways to create stronger and more personal bonds with them. This is especially true for Plurals who expect always-on interactivity. For retailers, museums offer a unique value proposition: authentic content-based experiences and proven extended ways to engage audiences. We'll start to see more of these museum-type experiences in retail.
- VR: The Not Ready for Primetime Player — Virtual Reality is the tech darling of the moment. While a plethora of companies are creating VR content, and conferences like The Future of Storytelling are focusing on VR, the technology is still not yet ready for prime time. It is still early. This year we will see a lot more consumer product companies and museums fielding VR experiences and more applications in museums, theme parks and exhibitions. When a technological breakthrough dispenses with the “goggles” and makes it a more of a social experience, VR will truly take off. Watch for new 3D displays that you can use without special glasses.
- Turbocharged Branding or Why PewDiePie Has 41 Million Followers — Brands will get more creative with format, storytelling and visual content for content marketing. As Douglas Holt points out in his Branding in the Age of Social Media article in the Harvard Business Review,PewDiePie has 41,000,000 (now 52,000,000) YouTube subscribers vs. McDonald’s 204,000, at a tiny fraction of the cost. This is because people and brands like PewDiePie plug into turbocharged art worlds or subcultures.
- Sensor Nets Go Virtual — One of the challenges in creating connected communities and smart connected buildings is having to place hundreds of small, low-power Bluetooth sensors in strategic locations throughout a building. Virtual iBeacons, like the technology being developed at Stanford University, will accelerate the installation and creation of these sensor networks. We are starting to see the future of stadiums like the Golden State Warriors' new arena in San Francisco and the new Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium posing as technology showcases using virtual sensors.
- Success Is Good, But Failure Is Great — It might not be a uniquely American trait, but like our relationship with mortality, our relationship with failure is quirky at best. Success brings you rewards and confidence, while failure brings you wisdom and experience. In designing interfaces, we often look at the ideal user and ideal navigational pathways through a media experience. A fresh and evolving design practice is the increased use of failure-mapping, a design approach that looks at the patterns of events or conditions of worst case scenarios and designing back from there. Embrace your failures. Along with a record number of home runs, Babe Ruth had a record number of strikeouts.
- The Biggest Impact — In the next five years, the acceleration of technology from data, computing power, connected devices and anything else you can name will impact experience design models for public spaces, museums, lobbies, stores and other fill-in-the-blank public spaces. This is why IBM is investing billions and the future of company on its Watson cognitive computing and natural language processing platform — a targeted artificial intelligence technology. While the current darling of the tech press is VR, cognitive computing and machine learning will have a much broader and deeper impact. No matter what any expert says, we really don’t no clue what to do with this stuff (yet).
- The Slow Food Movement Equivalent — The Slow Food Movement is a grassroots organization founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986 that promotes an alternative to fast food. Along with the trend of small and nimble, the slow food movement equivalent in technology will occur as new generations realize the dark side of social media and that technology is not the panacea for all life’s ills. We are starting to see inklings of this trend as the millennials in increasing numbers, whose lifeblood is social media, are starting to switch off their accounts.
- The Increasing Demand for 21st Century skills — 3D printing, self-driving cars, intelligent virtual agents, lions, tigers and bears, oh my! According to Michael Hicks who co-authored a report titled "The Myth and Reality of Manufacturing in America," the majority of the 7 million manufacturing jobs that the U.S. shed between 1970 and 2015 is due to advances in technology, not trade agreements. CNN Moneysays that we will lose another 5 million manufacturing jobs by 2020, also due to technological advances. Oddly enough, also according to CNN Money,there are 5.8 million unfilled job openings. Why the spread? Oddly enough, many potential employees do not know enough about science, technology or mathematics to contribute significantly to the economy. Another factor is that our institutions, both formal and informal, need to foster 21st-century skills. Skills like coding, system thinking, and data literacy. Science Centers like the Tech Museum in San Jose and Liberty, have programs teaching 21st-century skills. There will be many more to come, as like STEM projects, that's where the funding is. A race to the future.
- Real Juice for the Internet of Things — We will see the first real-world Internet-of-Things experiments in 2017 as the back-end technology infrastructure for supporting the Internet of Things comes online. This includes artificial intelligence, machine learning cloud services and new forms of long-distance wireless connections.
Creative Destruction Series: Introduction
Creative Destruction Series Part 01: Palpitations on the Slopes of Technology
Creative Destruction Series Part 02: Designing for Plurals, the Evolving Audience
Creative Destruction Series Part 03: Relocating Humanity
Creative Destruction Series Part 04: A Curious Stepchild of Inbound Marketing
Creative Destruction Series Part 05: Automated Design
Creative Destruction Series Part 06: Embracing Serendipity in the Digital Age
Creative Destruction Series Part 07: Three Versions of "US"