Technology Changes. Ideas Persist.

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In 1950, fantasy and sci-fi author Ray Bradbury published the short story The Veldt, which offers a glimpse into the futuristic lives of a family living in a Happylife Home that does everything for them. Their house is a fully immersive environment that prepares their food and bathes the children. The children develop a stronger affection for the house than for their parents, since the home is truly what cares for them, not their mother and father. The parents begin to feel that their humanness is useless in a home that is almost alive, sensing and responding.

I’m going to spoil this dark story and tell you that in the end, the children telepathically command the walls of their nursery to come alive with lions from the African veldt and devour their parents, which they do.

It’s messed up, I know. I read this story a few years ago and it’s still whirling around my brain. Not because it’s twisted and I like that (I don’t). Probably because of how plausible it seemed to me (sans lion feasting) that people would interact with the smart world around them in this subconscious way. And, well, that’s happening. It’s been happening.

We are developing affections for voice assistants. Our phones let us experience layered reality. The FDA just approved the first digital pill so our bodies can now transmit data if we simply swallow sensors. For years now, researchers have been working successfully to decode neural activity in the brain and translate it to actions in the real world. This is called brain-computer interfacing, as in a computer can read and respond to human thoughts. Yep, that’s a thing.

The whole world is an interface. We live in evermore connected environments and interact with our technology-enabled surroundings in intuitive and invisible ways. Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory company, has already called out their top 10 strategic technology trends of 2018. They predict the biggest trends will fall within what they call the Intelligent Digital Mesh: the entwining of people, devices, content and services.

When I thought about what weaves those four pillars together (beyond technology), I came to a wildly simple answer. What connects people, devices, content and services is ideas. And advertising and design have always been in the business of ideas. Traditionally, these ideas have manifested in the form of consumable content delivered via various media. But when the whole world is an interface, ideas are born of more complicated problems to solve and bloom into more expansive solutions.

To this end, brands must begin to conceive of the world differently. They must begin to see the world as a penetrable platform of human activities and determine how to integrate with those activities in consequential ways.

Ray Bradbury said this of science fiction: “Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody.”

As we explore CES 2018, we’ll be looking for problem-solving applications from emerging technologies that can affect not only what a brand says, but how it thinks, behaves and persists, knowing every part of the world is the new playing field. We’ll capture whatever we find most surprising, perspective-shifting and necessary to solving new problems alongside our client partners in the year ahead.