Everyone either knowingly or unknowingly is constantly prepping for the future. Everyday, we are involved in processes that move us and the world forward. We make plans ahead of time, we do work that is due next week, we go to school in order to prepare for a future job, etc. The world is in a constant movement of progression and improvement. Technology companies are not excluded from this. If anything, they are at the forefront of changing our lives in the future. The book, The Inevitable, addresses the various aspects of technology that will be the driving forces towards altering our future lives.
Some may respond fearfully.
They may ask why should we allow technology to rule our lives and shape our future?
While others respond hopefully and with excitement.
Instead of questioning how could we let this happen? They ask how can we best propel technology to help our lives in the future?
Kevin Kelly, the author of The Inevitable, decides to take the second approach. Throughout the book, he emphasizes the importance of not wasting time attempting to stop technology from progressing, but instead, accepting technology’s power and using it to our advantage, thus, accepting the inevitable. He does exactly this by utilizing and analyzing 12 powerful technological forces that he believes will be the inevitable driving forces towards our future.
These twelve forces include becoming, cognifying, flowing, screening, accessing, sharing, filtering, remixing, interacting, tracking, questioning, and beginning. Kelly divided the book into 12 sections, describing each one in great detail. Most sections consisted of the historical background of that particular force, how that force was going to change (mostly due to Moore’s law and the continuous ability to make cheaper, faster, and smaller computer chips), and specifically how these forces will alter our daily lives. In multiple of the sections, Kelly went into significant detail about what daily life will look like due to these inevitable forces. Some of these details are wild and seem very science-fictionesque. One such story is in the Screening chapter, almost everything he interacts with is a screen – his cereal box has a screen to say if it’s fresh, his dishes have screens to display whether they’re clean or not, the billboards are screens that change depending on who is looking at them, he wears screened glasses while on a run – the whole day continues in this screen-like fashion. “For eight hours, [I] stop screening,” Kelly thinks as he goes to sleep at the end of this futuristic day (108). There are only eight hours in his day that he is not in front of his screen – wild.
Using all of these specific instances of technological trends, Kelly sums up the book with the chapter about Beginning. I thought this was an extremely intriguing way to talk about technology and the future. Kelly emphasized, both in the conclusion and throughout the piece, how the era of technology that we are presently in is just the beginning and a very exciting beginning, in fact. Kelly explains that “future people will envy us, wishing they could have witnessed the birth we saw,” leaving readers on a very hopeful and positive note (291). Kelly wants everyone to appreciate the thrilling and momentous era we are witnessing, a pinnacle moment in the human timeline. Because of this, he urges the need to continue to propel this innovation forward through questioning. Every answer that we get leads to two more questions, he states. The more we know, which is an extremely large amount due to AI and Google at our fingertips, the more questions we have. Kelly ends the book stressing the importance of quality questions and the level of sophistication needed to form a high quality question. When we do that, we can utilize AI to our greatest advantage, improving the human experience.
There were several ideas that stood out to me in particular that Kelly emphasized multiple times throughout the text. The first is the notion that instead of buying goods, we are becoming a people who buys services, “moving away from the world of fixed nouns and toward a world of fluid verbs” (6). Products, once infused with various forms of technology, instantly gravitate towards becoming a process or service. He gives the example of Uber: taking a car, pairing it with technology (the Uber app), and the car becomes part of a service. Many people would rather use Uber than own a car. Kelly predicts that in the future, people will value convenience (a service) over ownership (owning a good). This notion was striking and thought-provoking to me. Given how society today often times feels like it is so centered around owning as much as possible, the thought that technology can help change not only our daily lives but our mindset, as well, is exciting to me. If people focus on using services that are shared (i.e. Uber, the cloud, etc.), they are on a more level playing field as opposed to owning goods. I find this extremely interesting because it shows how technology can alter the structure of society, as well as daily life.
A second idea that I found fascinating was the notion that “consumer involvement is a surprise” (22). People had assumed that people were lazy in nature and would much rather watch a movie on the couch that someone else made than get up and make their own. The billions of Youtube videos, tweets, FaceBook posts, and blogs, just to name a few, have proved that speculation completely incorrect. On the completely other hand, humans strive to enhance their lives and are naturally creative. Thus, the influx of sharing and creating at the birth of the Internet makes sense. This impulse to use technology for the betterment of humanity and to spread and develop knowledge is the basis of Kelly’s arguments throughout the book.
Yay or nay?
Definitely yay! While I disagree with some of his points, I think the book gives a good overarching foresight as to what we can expect in the future and would for sure recommend it. In my opinion, he accurately proves why these forces are inevitable given both human nature’s and technology’s tendencies. Throughout the book, while I know in his mind he was probably being positive, I thought a lot of what he was saying was negative. For example, many of his “future day stories” did not include much, if any, human interaction. It consisted mainly of himself and a screen of some sort. I found this quite depressing actually, and throughout the book, I kept finding myself feeling like I was missing human interaction and I wasn’t even experiencing this lifestyle yet. However, at the end of the book, Kelly leaves us on a much more positive note, explaining how technology can help us unleash humanity’s potential by letting us see “the greatest of the greatest” via TED talks, sports highlights, immense number of pictures, etc. This book, even though Kelly did not mean to, made me recognize the possible issues with technology and helped me be aware of them in the future. However, it also made me extremely hopeful and excited to witness the good technology can do for our world.