4.5 curated speculations about the future
As humans, we’ve always wanted to be able to predict the future in order to know what we should prioritise doing today. It all started with prophesy and slowly turned into the slightly more scientific approach designers typically use today when doing trend research.
In trend research, we identify the direction of change in values and needs which are driven by forces and manifest themselves in various ways within certain groups in society.
Depending on the longevity of a trend we tend to name them differently. On the side, you can see an overview.
Regardless of the type of trend, you typically want to use several data points when making any type of prediction in order to balance out subjective opinions.
But because the content of this article originates from an end of year keynote talk, it’s a bit more on the fun side and less scientific. Here we go. My 4.5 curated speculations about the near future.
🔮 Too early to tell: The interplay of AR & VR with working from home culture.
Covid has catapulted us years into the future when it comes to digitalisation. What might have normally taken years happened in weeks. Scott Galloway has a lot to say about that. Personally, I’m interested to see how the work-from-home culture develops in combination with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
There is cool stuff happening in this area already. One of the newer developments is a recent Kickstarter campaign from the Looking Glass Factory, which promises to develop the first personal holographic display. Check it out here:
Besides the obvious use cases shown in the video, I’m excited about this because it gets me wondering about how I might use such a device to enhance the interaction between customers and automated customer service processes (think chatbot).
Speaking of algorithms…. Let’s talk about my first real speculation:
🔮 Speculation #1: Watch out for algorithms to shake up the design industry.
According to McKinsey, technologies could automate 45 % of the activities people are paid to perform today. Nothing new there. We Designers have always looked at these predictions thinking: “yeah that’s a blue-collar problem.” Well turns out algorithms are coming for design jobs faster than we thought. In the video below you see a short example of somebody (your client) describing what they want to have (the brief) and a computer algorithm called GPT-3 basically coming up with an instant design based on that description. 🤯
Which leaves us with the question: “what the heck are digital Designers going to do in future if not designing user interfaces? Aaah, the answer might be too obvious:
🔮 Speculation #2: Watch out for companies to start applying Design & Ethics to their algorithms
Algorithms unlike employees are much more stringent in their behaviour. So this might be a new golden age of brand design. Finally, brand values might become more deeply ingrained into a company than ever before, because they can be literally be programmed into the algorithms.
Digital Design on the other hand will likely have to reinvent itself and become more abstract again. Philosophy, ethics, and scientific rigour might be the most sought after design skills in the near future. Digital Designers will be called in define to understand what (un)intended effects algorithms are producing, investigate and visualize the cause and effect so that board rooms and product teams can have informed discussions around how they want the algorithms to behave.
Speaking of values, I believe purpose will be a key differentiator in the future. Companies are mostly using the same technology stack, thus offering the same capabilities. So how are customers going to decide between offerings?
🔮 Speculation #3: Trust will become the key differentiator of the near future
In fact, according to a study done by Deloitte in 2020 Purpose-driven companies already witness higher market share gains and grow 3x faster than their competitors, all while achieving higher workforce and customer satisfaction. Boom! Seems like the young crowd's desire for sustainability and human decency is starting to show. Still got a long way to go though…. Anyway, check out these findings:
Apparently, Corona has only strengthened these purpose-based decisions factors. Especially in the US, ravaged by Corona, people seem to be waking up to the fact that turbo-capitalism might not be such a good concept after all. But then again nearly 50% voted for Trump the second time. So likely they’ll be stuck with turbo-capitalism for while longer. In Europe though, I believe the tides are turning.
Purpose-driven companies will take the lead in the years to come. The strongest driver is young talent. Earning money is no longer enough. Most want to be working toward a common goal that is more inspiring than shareholder value.
Speaking of purpose. Designit, the company I work for, has had “design what matters. Because what matters to people, matters to people” as a mantra for many years. And it seems like it’s never been more true than today. I love that statement because it summarizes the essence of a purpose. I’ll admit it’s a bit fluffy. I’d really like to have sustainability as a major aspect in there as well.
✋ End of AdBlock
🔮 Speculation #4: Watch out for businesses to offer truth as a service in the coming years.
Currently, fake news is silencing the reasonable voices through sheer volume. This is possible because Humans have a bias to react stronger to outrageous news, compared to facts. Also, we are lazy and don’t fact check.
Now think about how companies are incentivised to get people to interact with their services as much as possible because they depend on advertising. As a result, misinformation is being shared exponentially more often than facts. Welcome to the attention economy.
But it’s not just companies
In 1,366 days, President Trump has made 25,653 false or misleading claims according to the Fact Checker’s ongoing database of the false or misleading claims made by President Trump since assuming office (Updated Oct. 16, 2020).
Whoever finds a valid business model for on the fly fact-checking and verification of digital content, especially the social media flood might usher in a new gold rush: Truth as a Service (TaaS). Think of TaaS as good journalism at scale and lightning speed. This might be what comes after the attention economy.
Customers might range from the wealthy to entire governments fighting to fend off unwanted foreign influences into politics by ensuring their employees are not affected by misinformation campaigns on the internet and social media specifically.
You can see how this might turn black mirror easily. Only the wealthy being able to distinguish facts from fiction…
This trend gets even more troubling if you think about Deepfakes and how they are getting more and more accessible. You probably already know that images can be edited easily with Photoshop or the likes. I bet you can spot a Scam Email from miles away. But what happens when you can no longer trust video? Check out what AI can already do.
Designed to Deceive: Do These People Look Real to You?
The people in this story may look familiar, like ones you've seen on Facebook or Twitter or Tinder. But they don't…
Ok, back to Truth as a Service. We can already see early signals of this. I love how the Washington Post uses Pinocchios to show at a glance how truthful a piece of content might be. Hint: more Pinocchios is not a good thing.
If you’ve seen the Social Dilemma, you’ve probably heard Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin from the Center for Humane Technology talk about how, in the case of false news, we as Designers might actually want to add a bit more friction to flatten the curve. I did a quick sketch.
And here we can see an example of how Truth as A service might look like for the end-user in the near future. A verify plugin similar to reactions and share. The hard part is finding a way to fact check at scale and speed for a competitive price. I’m sure some smart entrepreneur will find a way.
With that, I’ll leave it be. I hope you enjoyed my wild speculations about the future, and if you’re looking for more thoughts and reflections on what’s coming up, keep on reading about an experiment on future delivery services, explore emerging trends in the personal care industries, or learn about the business impact of speculative design.