Slouching Toward Singularity

Sep 21, 2016

It’s almost a cliché.

We hold more computing power in the palm of our hands today than NASA used to land a man on the moon. It’s true. We all know it. But we get enamored by the comparison of power when we should be paying attention to location, that is, the palm of our hands.

Think about it. In the past, to access computing power you had to drive or fly to a major university or corporation to access their mainframe. To see a comic representation of this take a look at the 1957 classic Desk Set which tells the story of a computer expert, played by Spencer Tracy, who is installing a two-story computer in a research department run by Bunny Watson, Katharine Hepburn’s character. Of course, hilarity and romance ensue. But the point is, at that time, a computer is something you go to. It filled a room and threatened your job.

Singularity and Technology, Apple Watch

Fast-forward a few decades, and we only had to go the library to find a computer; a few more years and you had to go to your home office; and a few years later you only had to reach across the couch to grab your laptop. Now you only reach into your pocket or look at your wrist. Computing power can’t get any closer to us. What’s next? The next logical step is breaking the barrier of skin. This is what is commonly known as “the technology singularity” which has been discussed in various books by Ray Kurzweil including The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.

What are the implications? It will obviously affect the medical industry, but if your expectations stop there you might be thinking too small.

Imagine a world where you swallow a capsule, and at the end of the day it tells you which functional food to buy for improving your personal biome. Or perhaps you have a subdermal device inserted that interacts with your car. It detects who you are and opens the door and sets the seats to the proper position. Then it detects when you are too hot and turns on the air conditioning. Later it senses you are falling asleep and takes action to make sure you are safe. I know it sounds crazy, but this is the future and brands that embrace and leverage this macro-trend early will have an advantage over those who don’t.

Our immediate response is a sense of creepiness. However, I’d argue, it’s no more creepy than watching a herd of young people staring at their phones while walking through a park trying to capture invisible pocket monsters.

—Jeff Jones, VP of Insights & Strategy, Curiosity Insights