10 Predictions for the Near Future of Technology
During the next 5 years, how do you think work and life will change in a tangible way? As I synthesise the trends I’m seeing in technology and culture, this is the question I set myself every year as a personal task to think about and answer. The reason I’m publishing these is to connect more dots, meet more founders, attract likeminded thinking for some of the work we’re doing at Adobe, and gather feedback that will help us refine and expand on these concepts even further.
It should come as no surprise that some of the examples firms I use to illustrate these issues are from my own portfolio or are part of my job developing solutions for the creative industry. However, I have set a goal for myself to present ideas that are on the verge of becoming mainstream rather than the apparent trends and winners.
Among Those That Made The Cut Are the Following Top Ten:
- Recommendations are lethal. Favorites: AI-driven suggestions go beyond what we’ve come to expect from traditional recommendations.
- The next generation of elite talent will pursue “Polygamous Careers,” which will fundamentally alter the corporate world as we know it now.
- The rise of immersive experiences will propel 3D production into the mainstream.
- “The Stakeholder Economy” will re-energize developing brands and small enterprises while also serving as the greatest disruptive force in the face of internet behemoths and global markets, according to experts.
- We shall all begin to OPT-IN for advertisements [read: tailored experiences] in the near future.
- “F’ the Man, Power to the People” is provided as a courtesy.
- Everything about the company will be transformed into a multi-player, completely immersive experience.
- The next generation will live and work in a mobile environment for the next decade, and they will enjoy it.
- The reverse franchise model, as well as “eduployment,” will help small businesses grow and become more resilient.
- We are living in an era of multiple identities, and we are discovering, embracing, and expressing our many selves.
Recommendations are lethal. Favorites: AI-driven suggestions go beyond what we’ve come to expect from traditional recommendations.
Even though we’ve all heard the widespread concerns about artificial intelligence taking over jobs and other functions, the first major wholesale replacement I anticipate occurring in our everyday lives is for “favourites.” Creating and relying on a list of “favourites” was, I believe, an act of complacency on our part — a lazy way to the coast on the discoveries of chance rather than taking the risk of broadening our horizons.
Rather of obsessively saving playlists that I discover and enjoy on Spotify, I’ve lately submitted myself to the algorithms, which has been a liberating experience in my personal life. It was the combination of the radio feature and the new “enhance” feature that made the difference. I now have faith that any song I enjoy will lead to a playlist I will enjoy, and that any playlist I have will always improve over time as my tastes evolve. In my realm of music, recommendations have begun to supplant personal favourites as the preferred method of discovery.
Where else will something like this occur in our daily lives? When it comes to travelling, will your favourite trips yield recommendations that go beyond a Google search or an appointment with an agent? If you look at your previous typefaces used as a designer, together with whatever is on your canvas, will the font you should choose for a given project (yeah, I’m working on this at Adobe) recommend itself to you?
Everything you’ve ever cherished in your life has, to some extent, placed restrictions on you. No matter if it is a favourite song, a favourite restaurant, or a favourite hotel, these coincidental discoveries have become go-to favourites, consuming our attention at the expense of new and (by the rule of chance) even better experiences that we just aren’t aware of yet. Life is brief, and the more we restrict ourselves to “favourites,” the less likely it is that we will discover new and better things to do in it. This is done through artificial intelligence.
The next generation of elite talent will pursue “Polygamous Careers,” which will fundamentally alter the corporate world as we know it now.
The next generation of talent entering the industry will largely choose for what I’ve come to term “polygamous careers.” The desire to generate income and feel fulfilled from multiple projects will increase retention (you don’t leave a job if your “other interests” are being fulfilled elsewhere), increase workplace productivity (no more face time…people will be busier and more efficient), and help many projects and companies engage top talent that would otherwise be out of reach. One’s profession will be a portfolio of projects, whether you’re a designer, engineer, salesperson, or investor. The idea of “exclusivity” in an offer letter will be comical faster than we anticipate.
But such a reality leaves us with many questions. What tools can let us set and assess objective key results and performance in such a distributed world? What sorts of confidentiality and network security will encourage such a dynamic workforce? A few transformational items and technology will enable the rise of polygamous careers.
Polywork is a new take on LinkedIn that fills out your profile at the more detailed project and achievement level as opposed to the job level. So, “Pushed Code,” “Updated an iOS app,” or “Spoke at a conference” is the new “Got a new job.” In a polygamous career, these milestones count more. Another business I am interested in is Braintrust, a decentralized “talent owned” network where any firm may hire a group of freelancers and directly work with a coordinated group of talent without any middleman or take rate.
My aim for the future is that more people will enjoy the benefits of “Tune-In Jobs” (where you are truly involved with the work you do) vs. “Tune-Out Jobs” (where we’re more focused on the clock). The world is moved forward by people who tune in.
The rise of immersive experiences will propel 3D production into the mainstream.
At Adobe, we’ve observed that most designers like to start with a stock 3D object as opposed to constructing one from scratch and that commodity 3D objects may be parametric (easily changed) as an unlock for creativity without complication. We’ve developed a full suite of products called Substance 3D that includes a product that enables you to sculpt a 3D item (much like clay) wearing a virtual reality headset, and then refine it further in desktop tools to make it look real.
With our efforts and numerous businesses attacking this potential, coupled with the capacity of our mobile phone cameras to scan items into 3D assets, we will all be created in 3D as soon as immersive experiences go widespread. Remember, Facebook didn’t even start enabling photographs in the feed until social networks were ubiquitous and users began to express the need and needs. The same thing will happen with 3D creation. Over the next five years, we’ll all become 3D artists just as we all became photographers.
“The Stakeholder Economy” will re-energize developing brands and small enterprises while also serving as the greatest disruptive force in the face of internet behemoths and global markets, according to experts.
Brands have been decentralized and are more defined by the memes, content, and daily discussions of the masses. The next generation of community-oriented initiatives and organizations are also on a path to becoming decentralised — where new blockchain-driven organizational constructions turn owners and customers into a community of stakeholders. I’ve been thinking (and writing) about how this combination of decentralization may favor new brands and local businesses and could prove to be the most disruptive force against the internet behemoths and global marketplaces that govern the world.
Brands are now collectively determined by the content generation of the public as opposed to a creative agency and a nationwide ad buy.
Today, for all save the most legendary businesses in the world, a brand is only as good and fresh as the latest content and conversations going place. What your friends say — or even a stranger truly expressing satisfaction or disappointment — seems to have more power than Superbowl advertisements. Why? Because we still seek the historical “small town” of reputation and companies built on trust. The agreement in real-time from users on social media is powerful.
What would this look like in the future? Perhaps we will all own a portion of the various online businesses and marketplaces we frequent, as well as our favorite local restaurant, ice cream shop, and coffee house. Imagine every subscriber to your newsletter becoming a stakeholder as well as a reader, and what that would do to viral marketing? When you enjoy a business or service, you may buy tokens or earn them by donating labor in the form of clearly defined and measurable tasks. Perhaps you’ll be able to buy your ice cream with (tokens in the) ice cream (shop)?
We shall all begin to OPT-IN for advertisements [read: tailored experiences] in the near future.
We all want to be known, but the benefits must exceed costs. Getting given unsettling teeth whitening or weight-loss commercials would make anyone opt out. And really, “advertising” conjures up the period of obnoxious banner ads and pop-ups. But “personalised experiences” are the new advertising, and most of us would prefer it whether we confess it or not.
If you adhere to my idea that technology at its best gets us back to the way things once were — but with less friction and at a far wider scale, then perhaps you’re agree: We want local establishments to know our names and preferences. We want experiences suited to our tastes. We want internet food stores to hide the food we’re allergic to.
We want shoe stores to remember our size. We’ll want ai-driven immersive experiences to know us well, but not at the expense of our security and comfort. As usual (at least in my perspective), design is the solution. How can we develop customer relationships through UX and policies and procedures that help us hyper-personalize future experiences at scale without compromising trust? What new consumer-facing enterprises may develop in a world where we WANT specific knowledge about us to be known by everyone or a group of people in this new society?
“F’ the Man, Power to the People” is provided as a courtesy.
I am fascinated by the growth of consumer products and networks that try to remove purposely imposed friction and conflict-of-interest business models, and I think we will see a lot more of this. The stock trading app Public emerged as a serious Robinhood competitor with its stance against “Payment For Order Flow” (a business model that can act against the interest of the client) (a business model that can work against the interest of the consumer).
The app DoNotPay has established a significant subscription business helping users fight bureaucracy and hack their way through government systems to remedy their problems. Mos has revolutionized the education funding landscape by letting students rapidly navigate and efficiently apply for grants and earn scholarships with fewer impediments.
A little further afield but not much is HighArc, a company that promises to empower consumers to build their own homes rather than rely on an architect and give all creative authority. All of these services strive to empower people that were otherwise passive participants in a system beyond their control. Such goods not only aid people but also hold governments and huge enterprises responsible.
Everything about the company will be transformed into a multi-player, completely immersive experience.
I am particularly excited by organisations that are reinventing every component of a company — from product and HR to financial planning and procurement — with collaboration, transparency, and more accessible interfaces at the center. The days of isolated departments and the complex interlock processes required to work across departments are numbered. In recent months, I have seen a Dev Ops environment that resembles a game, a virtual water-cooler that generates “spontaneity as a service,” and a financial planning tool that essentially substitutes that function with a tool that any departmental manager can use. Each of these technologies allows anybody in the firm to hop in, contribute at varying degrees of permission, and become a stakeholder in something they would otherwise never fully understand.
Less discussed are the costs and trade-offs of multi-player systems — whether it is an app that becomes less performant as it becomes more collaborative or a consensus-driven protocol on the blockchain that becomes less performant as it becomes more consensus-driven (just another form of collaboration) (just another form of collaboration). There is a generational shift in attitudes and trade-offs: people would rather work jointly with a greater delay than work faster alone.
The first stage of these items will be multi-player two-dimensional experiences. But I think we’ll rapidly see them take on the third dimension. Imagine “walking through” your P&L and balance sheets, seeing the growth rate visualised, being able to “jump into” any individual client or spend, and feeling the runnings of your business in a fully immersive way.
Imagine being able to wander over to a neutral zone in your immersive financial experience where you meet specialists from other companies and may ask questions and share comparisons. These experiences will help more people understand these functions in many ways skeuomorphic design helped early users of the iPhone grasp the functionalities. The next generation of corporate technology will be design-driven and will try to “teach everyone how to fish” rather than divide the enterprise into interconnected silos.
The next generation will live and work in a mobile environment for the next decade, and they will enjoy it.
There are also all forms of apartment-swapping networks and all price ranges of Airbnb that enable us to choose locations a few weeks at a time. So, my prediction is that young adults in their twenties increasingly prefer to spend a decade of their lives moving between a collection of rented or traded spaces throughout the world, working remotely, and immersing themselves in communities and cultures.
Such an encounter would actually improve their lives and develop the type of creativity, openness to variety, and self-exploration that enriches personal and professional success. What kinds of products and networks can make this more accessible and inexpensive to all? Whatever products and employers lean in this direction will succeed.
Of course, this opens up pandora’s box of remote work. New firms can be established for this period, but can old companies be retrofitted with a culture and set of practices that work for this new way of life? Or is there a growing divide between organizations that are and aren’t willing to accommodate? Ultimately, we all either follow the trail of tremendous genius or fall behind.
The reverse franchise model, as well as “eduployment,” will help small businesses grow and become more resilient.
Those of you who read last year’s predictions know that I have been long fascinated with the notion of individuals and small businesses obtaining access to the advantages of big businesses. Doing so is the only way to level the playing field and, potentially, provide consumers with the advantages of both small businesses (relationships, service, local patronage) and big corporations (better user experience, scaled pricing, contemporary technology, and interfaces, etc) (better user experience, scaled pricing, modern technology, and interfaces, etc).
Mexico-based Kolors approaches local family-owned buses in all the rural and urban parts of Mexico and brings them only the Kolors booking system and a fresh coat of paint and some branded materials to boot. This is what I call the “reverse franchise” model, where existing small businesses come together to reap the benefits of a conglomerate while keeping some degree of autonomy.
And then there is the concept of “eduployment,” which I believe will be a big unlock for millions of professions in the coming years. Eduployment is the vertical integration of choosing a trade, acquiring an education, and getting a job or starting a company. My favorite examples continue to be Nana, a firm that trains you in appliance repair (think unusual types of dishwashers, etc) and helps you acquire leads for service repair from the manufacturers of these products.
And Hoist, who educates you as a painter among other crafts, provides you with everything you need and sets you up to be a successful business out of the gate within 30 days – practically turning you into a franchise. I hope to see this whole notion flourish in the years ahead.
We are living in an era of multiple identities, and we are discovering, embracing, and expressing our many selves.
The last era of social networks tolerated and (at best) accommodated pseudonyms, but the next era of social networks will be optimized for the reality that every participant will have numerous identities. Yes, it turns out that we humans were never meant to be so constrained and isolated in a solitary identity that was decided by others around us.
While we’ve always had the imagination and desire to be who we want to be indifferent to circumstances as opposed to what people tell us we are, the friction was too strong. Geographic and situational limits (where you happen to be born, what you happen to look like, who your chance to meet) were too deterministic. It just needed too much strength, determination, and stubbornness to breakthrough.
Through a combination of elements including modern social network constructions and conventions, decentralised art projects and networks, and a vector of online culture that is astonishingly welcoming, many identities are becoming less and less fringe. My buddy Sriram Krishnan recently told a story of meeting the person behind a pseudonym he’d known for a long time and had really come to appreciate, and being struck by the fact that this person was absolutely off the radar and nothing like he anticipated.
It made me realize, that perhaps true meritocracy of ideas is only feasible without the historical anchoring and biases of a particular identity? From networks like Discord, where users are represented by whatever name and avatar they want, and ItsMe, where people connect in real-time using a creative avatar of their choosing, we’re witnessing an enormous rise in willingness to engage, transact with, and befriend pseudonymous people. I think it will only make the world more entertaining, intriguing, and unexpectedly authentic.
Scott Belsky Eduployment
Scott Belsky is an entrepreneur (Behance, 99U), executive (Adobe), author (The Messy Middle, Making Ideas Happen), and early-stage investor in 80+ firms (including some listed in this post) and is an all-around product fanatic. Continue the conversation and find Scott on Twitter, check out other recent pieces like “What is Seeing The Matrix for Product Leaders?” “8 Themes for the Future of Tech,” purchase his latest book — The Messy Middle, or sign up for an irregular email of ideas.