Clients sometimes ask me for examples of “social change” that we can expect in the next 10 years – especially after my comment that the social change over the next 10 years will exceed that of the last 100 years.

So for this post and the next one, let’s look at how social change is going to be impacted and just what that might mean in a practical manner.

Here are the first 3 things this issue will cover:

A/ Facial recognition and what that means
B/ Free Education and what that looks like now and what it will look like ten years out in the future
C/ Health, how that will be handled with technology and its probable effect on day to day living

Just before I go into some of those examples let’s make sure everyone has got a solid grasp on just how change occurs itself – because it’s very important for understanding how things come to pass.

Ray Kurzweil, one of the world’s most prominent futurists, has a law called the Accelerating Law of Returns. It basically says that, things are going to change a whole lot faster than we would expect them to, because we base our assumption of future change upon what we have just witnessed. How could we think of it otherwise?

So it turns out that change happens exponentially instead of sequentially. What happens is new technologies come along that radically alter how something has always been done. From that point on, it’s never the same again and the cumulative effect of these individual changes cause change to happen much, much more frequently than we’ve experienced in the past. Think of it like money. Because change compounds, just like both interest and investment returns, what you get in the long run is not even close to what you would have expected in the past.

So with that in mind let’s talk about the future ramifications of some of the technologies we’ve talked about in the past on this blog. Hopefully you’ll get an idea or two about where things may go so that you can “skate to where the puck is going” versus skating to where you thought it might have gone.

A/ Wearable Video X Facial recognition and what that means

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There was a guy who just jumped out of a hot air balloon in a spacesuit 28 miles up. He broke the sound barrier on the way down in what has just become the new world record for high-altitude parachute jumps.

What is amazing is that he not only lived to tell about it, but what they were actually considering equipping him with some of the new Google augmented reality Google glasses. The concept of diving from the edge of outer space while doing a live broadcast is a metaphor for the future. From up there he can see the whole world, and that is exactly what wearable computers will do over the next 20 years.

These glasses transmit a live video feed of what you are looking at to a satellite, and then return information back about what you’re seeing in real time right in the lens of the glasses – like a mini TV in your sunglasses that only you can see.

If you haven’t seen the Google live demo of them jumping out of their own hot air balloon at their last conference I’d recommend it, but the point I’m trying to get at is the massive ramification that the world will see once this technology is commonplace and you get a network effect happening.

Today, the military can instantly find 2 guys in a certain kind of car based on video footage from a drone that covers an area the size of a Canadian Province. Video cameras in all major US cities can automatically and instantly notify the cop on the corner within seconds of a known felon walking onto the street.

Over the next 20 years all forms of communications (think Facebook, phone calls, video feeds etc.) will be indexed for automatic and immediate recognition. Crime rates will decline along with your level of privacy.

B/ Free education, what that looks like now and what it will look like ten years out

It’s become cliché to say that education is undergoing a revolution. It is also both absolutely true but absolutely false. Yes, the tools and technology that enable learning are coming together to form a perfect storm of unparalleled potential. Yet the fundamental manner of teaching our children, the type of material they learn and the style of teacher student delivery, really haven’t changed a whole lot throughout most of the world for 50 years.

Today our educational leaders and pioneers are both making higher education free and enormously more consumable. Conference companies like TED give away the world’s best ideas while charging the millionaires who attend in person tens of thousands of dollars for the same information.

Stanford, Harvard and the University of Toronto are but three of what is now likely hundreds of world-class universities making their actual courses available without cost, for free, on-demand, anytime you want. You’ll even get a little letter recognition of from the University upon completion of the course.

Already there is pushback from some traditional educational players but it’s too late. Expect this to disrupt the labor markets from here on in.

Here are two likely scenarios:

The dramatic growth of education coming from third world countries will saturate knowledge based industries driving labor rates and wages for non-monopolized industries down dramatically.

Accreditation equivalency firms or boards will arise which will provide third-party testing and certification for people that have taken the free education so that employers can recognize the educational validity of non-graduates. This will effectively weaken educational monopoly now maintained within the university/governmental industries.

C/ Health, how that will be handled with technology and its probable effect on day to day living

Here is an amazing statement: “If you can live for 20 more years they’ll be able to keep you alive forever.” Whether or not it actually comes to pass, just the fact that the best minds in medical technology are actually debating the feasibility of living forever is astounding.

What is evident is that healthcare over the next 20 years will undergo an astounding revolution both with and without the help of your family doctor. Healthcare is of course one of the most bureaucratic, conservative industries there is. Accordingly, there are all sorts of entrenched interests that aren’t keen on change and don’t want to lose control. So for the next few years, the benefits one can get out of new technology are largely user driven. That will likely change over the next decade.

Medicine has traditionally been reactive. Don’t feel well, you go to the doctor. They do some tests on you and you find out what’s going on. Hopefully, they get to the problem before it’s become a major one. Over the next 20 years that is what will change.

Proactivity through sensors both internally and externally that link to your smartphone is on the horizon. Externally, sensors such as smart Band-Aids are coming to eBay soon. They will quickly measure 101 factors such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels and even cardiorespiratory health to name a few.

Internal sensors such as the 90 micron unit now being tested in animals at Stanford University are injected into the bloodstream with a regular needle. They power themselves with the flow of the blood and respond to signature reactions that the body gives off. So as an example, rather than waiting for that heart attack to hit, the chemicals that your heart starts to give off a week or so before an attack will be recognized and pop up as a warning on your phone.

As there are about 1000 things that can go wrong with your body, this stuff will no doubt be complex to read. As changes in the medical field are typically measured in decades don’t expect your doctor to be driving this. Instead, look for a new industry of Personal Health Consultants ready to proactively monitor your vitals and suggest both products and new ways to better your health.

E.O. & E.

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Schneider Content Team
Our research advisory team that helps keep us ahead so we can do the same for you.