We are in times of transition. I never experienced it before, but I’m also young in this game.
I imagine it’s similar to the mid 1980ies when the personal computer wave faded. Or the early 2000s when the internet rush ended. Those too were times of transitions.
But history shows a new innovation will soon emerge and reach critical support. Certainty will return.
I experienced the latest of these waves. The mobile internet. I remember being absolutely certain about the future. The internet would go mobile.
Every website and application needed to be redesigned to the smartphone. I knew the change would be big enough for startups to battle the dot.com winners. At the same time, the mobile was cheap enough for new users to access the internet. Kids, teens and people in developing countries would want different applications. I knew it.
During the past year, it became increasingly clear to me that the mobile internet wave is fading. The big winners have been found. The pitches I see now are “the Uber of” some small segment.
Entering 2017, I don’t know anything for sure. There is no certain wave everyone is riding. But it’s exactly at times like this the biggest winners are made. Founders and investors who catch the next wave before it becomes obvious will make history.
Where we are going
My general belief about the future of the human race can be summed up in one word: Omnipotence. Humans have strived for the same ideal throughout history. The ideal has been called Zeus, Odin or modern superhero names. Their characteristics: They are all knowing, omnipresent, extremely powerful and immortal. Most telling of all, they look and behave as human beings. And this is where we are heading.
To a pre-modern human, we would already seem omnipotent. All knowing because we can seemingly access all of the world’s information though a screen in our pocket. Omnipresent because we are connected on social media and can move by car and airplane. Extremely powerful because can manage huge projects with software and turn of lights with our voice. Immortal because we can fix most diseases and live to be a hundred.
But modern humans know we still have far to go.
Approaching all knowing
The internet and mobilization of the internet basically made us all knowing. We managed to digitize information and transfer it via fiber and radio waves to everyone’s pockets. Sensors, cameras and peer generated content provided new sources of data. However, there is still a lot that we don’t know.
We don’t know what we are eating, the true state of our body or what a baby is thinking. We don’t know who would be our perfect spouse or how long we need to sleep.
What we need are new type of sensors and improved understanding of the existing data. I think those are big opportunities in the coming year.
Even though pre-modern humans would be amazed how quickly we can get around today, we are still far from true omnipresence. Food, medicine and people are still moved by relatively slow means of transportation.
In order to become truly omnipresent, we must turn physical objects instantly available. But because physical objects cannot be digitized, we only have three options. 1. Move them much more efficient, 2. Replicate them, 3. Substitute them with something else.
Drones and self-moving vehicles can move objects and people extremely efficiently. Alternatively, we could replicate the things we need. Aside from the potential dangers, having a medicine machine at home would make a lot of sense. In some cases, we could substitute people with humanoid robots, AI or avatars in VR. I would bet on startups that did any of this.
In pre-modern times, almost everyone was farming or hunting. Today, only a few percent create food to the rest of us. Machines and software coursed leapfrogs in what a single human can accomplish. I feel it when Google Maps navigate me places I never been before
However, I don’t feel very powerful when I need a key to open my door or don’t understand what a book is trying to teach me. To be powerful is to be in control. But to be in control requires tools. What we need are more tools.
IoT will help turn objects into tools and interactive interfaces and virtual environments will help me learn new skills. In this field, there is a lot to be done for startups.
Far from immortality
We will not achieve immortality any time soon. In fact, I believe we still got basic plummeting to do. Like just monitoring the state of our health or actually understanding the brain.
In the short term, the obvious task is to get everyone to wear a tracker. But no one likes to strap something bulky on and off all the time. Trackers must be tiny and permanent. Also they need to measure things that really matter. Things you currently need blood samples to get.
When we actually understand our body and what goes on, it will unleash a world of applications. But right now I look for startups that will do the ground work.
Happy new year everyone.
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