The life-changing (and terrifying) technology that’s around the corner

The tech revolution is ongoing. But are you ready for what’s next?

As much as digital technology and social media over the past 10 to 15 years have completely altered the way we live, there is much, much more disruption to come — and some of it is as terrifying as it is awe-inspiring.

From an earpiece computer that feeds you information from your phone, to the ability to synthetically replicate your voice and face, the future seems more science fiction than reality.

Yet, according to a panel of experts at the State of Social conference in Perth last month, these technologies will be a part of our daily lives any day now.

The panel — including Silicon Valley guru Chris Messina, Klick X’s Kim McKay, intellectual property lawyer David Stewart, and digital marketing expert Meg Coffey — were discussing the topic “now what?”

According to Messina, “what now” could actually mean “a little less”. He said we are already “mediating our visual environment” to cut down on unnecessary screen time, which is helping drive the rise of voice technology, like Amazon’s Alexa.

But even talking into a device on the kitchen counter could soon be outmoded, with Stewart highlighting the earbud technology being developed in Perth by a company called Nuheara.

“Why be distracted in the way Google Glass was going to distract you; why not have something you can hear?” he said.

“It taps into your phone and it gives you the information.”

Technology is also changing not only the skills people are obtaining at a very young age, but the way they think as well. Messina said “Gen Z” kids (people younger than 14) are more visual communicators, with amazing editing skills.

“They’re very sensitive about values-led conversations, too,” he said.

That’s something McKay says marketers are seeing borne out in what’s known about “Gen Z” as a demographic.

“We know Gen Z are a lot more serious than the Millennial,” she said. “They’ve started earning money by 14 because they’ve looked two generations ahead and seen people who can never afford their own home. They’re not travelling as much as Millennials. They’re carrying this overwhelming sense of fear and responsibility.”

Perhaps that sense of responsibility is just as well, considering the technology we’re all about to be armed with: the ability to synthetically, and perfectly, recreate someone’s voice and face.

On one level, it opens up exciting opportunities for users to create alternative personalities, identities and realities. On another, it’s going to make it a lot harder to tell what’s real from what’s fake.

What’s more, as Stewart revealed, under current Australian law (and most global law, unless you’re a celebrity in the US) you don’t actually own your voice or your image. The opportunities for mischief are seemingly enormous.

And what about our social media use and the tech giants who hold so much sway over our lives?

“One of the conversations going on in Silicon Valley is around breaking up these companies,” Messina said.

“But you can’t talk about breaking up these companies without thinking about what it is they are and what is it you’re breaking up and where you want competition.

“If you think about Google as an advertising company, then what is the relevance of your search business? If you think about Facebook as an identity platform, then what about the fact you can sign into Instagram with Facebook? Do we turn that off all of a sudden, and where is the benefit for consumers in that?

“We have the wrong yardstick for measuring what these things are and what these companies are like. Facebook continues to morph and change.

“The thing (Facebook founder Mark) Zuckerberg has done better than any other tech executive is to spy on our behaviour and observe all the apps that we’re using, and buy them up.”


Want more State of Social news? Check out all our recaps from the amazing day here.