Our obsession with technology is increasingly becoming our frustration.
As we continue to immerse ourselves in technology and live ever more “on the grid,” we are simultaneously digging in our heels, nostalgic for days when our lives were more anonymous and less immediate. We are growing into our tech-connected selves, but we are also fraught with confusion about what lies ahead.
Heading into 2014, the evolution of our tortured love/hate relationship with technology is going to define and direct what we want and how we think.
Ann Mack, the director of trend spotting at New York City advertising agency JWT, has broken down our future trajectory into a list of 10 directions that we human beings are being moved — in some cases propelled, in others dragged — in 2014 and beyond.
1. Immersive experiences. We expect more of our entertainment. It has to touch all of our senses.
Example: Wireless audio system maker Sonos has set up installations in NYC and Los Angeles where color washes, lighting and animation coordinate with the music playing out of speakers.
2. Talk with pictures. We live in an increasingly visual world. With a personal camera, video camera and computer in our hands all day long every day, we Instagram our breakfast, Vine our walk to work, Tweet pictures of our friends at dinner and post pictures on Facebook of our living room redecoration.
Example: Online dating site Tinder gets 350 million swipes each day. There are no long-winded, oversharing profiles to fill out or read; users judge exclusively on photos.
3. Faster, faster, faster. We are in the midst of what Mack has called “the age of impatience.” Customers expect more, faster and more conveniently than ever before. And, we are growing increasingly impulsive.
Example: EBay Now will deliver anything you want from a local merchant in roughly an hour for $5.
4. Mobile technology as a ticket to opportunity. Having a phone now means that you are connected. Increasingly, mobile technology — even the simple SMS text message — is being leveraged to bring access to health care, education, and finance to people in developing nations.
Example: A partnership between Vodafone and Turkey’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture allows farmers to receive updates on the weather, government regulations and the market price of goods.
5. Computers reading our minds. Emotion-recognition software and brain-computer interfacing means the technology around you is able to register your mood. (So while you make be faking a smile, your smartphone might know better.)
Example: Food and beverage company Nestle tracked students brainwaves in a “brain booth” while they were eating a Kit Kat bar and then with that data, created an illustration, unique to each person.
6. You really can’t hide, ever. If you have a mobile device with you, then companies and governments can probably find you. And most people are pretty creeped out by this. (But not creeped out enough to put down their smartphones, of course.)
Example: Tesco gas stations in the U.K. have monitors that analyze the gender and age of the people standing in front of them and show ads based on the results. The monitoring system also knows how long a consumer has looked at a particular ad.
7. We kind of all hate the technology we worship. In an effort convince ourselves that we have not literally crawled inside our own computers and that we do really still maintain interpersonal relationships with things other than our smartphones, there is an increasing preference for things that are human and “off the grid.”
Example: Musicians such as She & Him, Jack White, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Prince have asked their audiences to keep their smartphones tucked away during concerts so they aren’t looking out onto a sea of iPhone screens.
8. No tradition is too sacred to be smushed up and remastered. Long-standing rituals are going in the blender and coming out the other side with new, redefined social norms.
Example: We are spending less time bent over prayer books in pews, but in the U.S. and U.K., secular “godless congregations” are seeking to bring people together for many of the community benefits and ritualistic gatherings associated with Sunday churchgoing.
9. Perfection is overdone. As technology makes our daily lives more precise, curated and busy, we lust for the imperfect, the slightly off-kilter, the quirky, the human essence in experiences and objects.
Example: An Austrian grocery store chain called Billa launched a line of slightly imperfect fruits and vegetables that it called “Wunderlinge.” The word itself is a combination of the word for “anomaly” and the word for “miracle.”
10. We all just want to be zen. As we get busier and busier and busier, and our smartphones — and therefore our connectivity to the world — follows us from the office to the car to the train to the home and back again, we all are looking for how to stay calm. Living in the moment isn’t just for the yoga studio anymore.
Example: Virgin Atlantic had meditation gurus develop videos to stream on its flights teaching consumers how to sleep and stay calm when they are bored.