These futures are not a given. Both the positive and negative aspects of what I have described are only some of the possible scenarios for our trajectory as human beings. The bright, shiny, positive elements—interoperability of devices for coordinated savings of energy or increased safety, for example—are shadowed by concerns about ethics, privacy and environmental sustainability. For example, is it really a good idea to make it easier to drive petroleum-based vehicles, or should we switch to different modes of transit or at least energy sources? Just because we can make it easy to forget our laundry in the washer or have our home pre-heated or cooled so that we are never inconvenienced or uncomfortable doesn’t mean it is a good idea.
The science-fiction examples of tech-enhanced bodies are also questionable in their benefits and consequences. Huge advances in standards, ethical guidelines, regulations and cultural understanding are needed. These problems are explored in incredible depth in other articles and resources.
As technology-aware businesspeople and concerned citizens, it is our job to ask both what is needed to enable these technologies and also whether we are ready (or interested) in doing so. The ever-growing “snowball effect” of technological change is hard to counteract, but if it accelerates too quickly, cultural backlash or public misunderstanding can set back progress or derail legitimately socially-conscious innovations along with those under critique.
In order to build such technologies, robust and well-designed technological and strategic platforms must be put into place. Legacy systems must also be integrated in a way which acknowledges complex privacy, speed and reliability needs inconceivable at the time of the original design. This kind of innovation and rapid change requires companies which may never before have had to consider such complexities to quickly deepen strategic partnerships in technology, public policy and many other functions while also increasing their own capacity.
What legacy will we leave?