“To consider how our well-being will be affected to changes in digital life, it is useful to outline what those changes are likely to be:
- There is here. Products, tools and experiences will become more immersive thanks to VR (virtual reality) and other advances. Remote and near will become quaint concepts as we connect to almost any place from anywhere.
- Reality gets realer. More products, tools and experiences will seek to enhance, or bring something new, to improve sell, or convince us. This will include adding to digital encounters with relevant information, data, images and enhanced viewing for every experience from surgery and sightseeing to, of course, sex.
- Bots as pals. Bots, virtual assistants (Siri, Alexa, etc.) will become more prevalent, more “real” to us, more companionable—and we will come to rely on them.
- Everyone knows me. Recognition technologies (face, emotion, voice, etc.) will become remarkably accurate to verify, explain, and define who we are. These will also generate data profiles that will re-define and supplant more intuitive insights or perceptions.
- Showing up is a show. Presentation of self in everyday life will increasingly move away from face-to-face interactions as we rely on tools and platforms through which we show and express ourselves.
- We are all living in Toy Story. We will increasingly surround ourselves with intelligent technologies—things that think. Intelligence will be invested in all objects as the Internet of Things becomes everyware.
- Digital reorg revamps older structures. Social structures globally will be affected—rocked—by connectivity, cooperation, and reorganization that follow the logic of newer digital tools and platforms, not older frameworks built by alphabets, literacy, laws, and religious injunctions from holy books.
- Life is an abstraction. The abstraction of everyday life will continue as algorithms, blockchain technologies, crypto currencies, data tracking and profiling—combine to reduce people and experience to conceptual abstractions.
- Data determines. In every area of life, from medicine to marriage, data flows and data summations will begin to guide our choices and decisions.
“Changes in digital life will land us in a quandary where two seemingly opposite things can be true simultaneously: digital tools will help us fight disease, increase productivity and assign menial and repetitive jobs to robots and algorithms. Yet these same digital tools alter our sense of self and our relationship to others. They may make us feel isolated, insecure, or lonely because we spend more hours in screen time rather than face time. We are headed for increased competition for focus and attention, with a greater likelihood for blending and confusion of self and identity, especially among younger minds.
“The hints of what to come are there before us now. Two examples: online dating: in 2017 30 percent of U.S. internet users aged 18 to 29 years were currently using dating sites or apps and a further 31 percent had done so previously while 84 percent of dating app users stated that they were using online dating services to look for a romantic relationship. Online shopping: 51% of Americans prefer to shop online; 96% of Americans with internet access have made an online purchase in their life, 95% of Americans shop online yearly, 80% of Americans shop online at least monthly, 30% of Americans shop online at least weekly; Ecommerce is growing 23% year-over-year.
“Those who grew up with older media will look at the Internet and digital tools as a takeover of reality. Younger minds will see and feel the Internet as immersion that equals reality.
“Today our digital life still has one foot in older traditions; we must prepare for the not distant future when digital life (and this will be someone’s business model) becomes The Truman Show.
“The internet and digital realities are simulations: we must be hyper-vigilant to ensure we are seeing the reality and not the sim; simulations are more easily manipulated and more easily manipulate us.”