Imagine that there are five completely identical people that are each shown one of five different forms of advertisement for a new product release – a video, a news article, a research paper, a podcast and a social media post. Which form of content would have the most attention dedicated to it? Personally, I think that I would focus and remember the most from the video and research also shows that to be likely for the majority of the population. Videos are robust in that the context can adapt relatively quickly to meet the standards of our shortened attention span. Additionally, videos give you control over what segments you wish to see and when you want to watch it. Why do we have these habits? This is because we have a growing need for instant gratification perpetuated by the growth of the on demand economy and digital technology. And although we have made “organic” trade offs to understand digitalization, the platforms and technologies that exist have triggered a digital evolution that enhanced our creativity and reduced waste.
Let’s take a look at augmented reality (AR) for example. This technology is a branch of computer-mediated reality that lets you extract sensory inputs to modify what you see in your real world environment. Although there’s still a lot of work to be done before it is adopted by the masses, this technology literally allows you to control your environment based off your desires and create a zone of experiment that does not need to conform with the norm. For example, Ikea Place which was designed to help customers pick out good pieces of furniture for their home or office could also be used to create models of relaxation stations like a sit station at a public park or a massage service elevator where you sit on a couch and receive a massage on the ride up. It is a breeding ground for imagination and we can all agree that it’s a better cognitive surplus dump than reading the newspaper.
Another technology that will force us to adapt is virtual reality (VR). VR ideas started back in the 1960s when Mort Heilig brought a machine called “The Sensorama” to a penny arcade in Time Square. Like its cousin AR, it was also originally designed for practical purposes like improving the movie theatre experience or as a form of therapy to treat the chronically ill. In the present day, it has found its place among gamers and has sparked the growth of VR centers in an effort to penetrate every day people. Once VR becomes mainstream, training simulations for sports reflexes or flying an airplane would be available on the go and may be the key to overcoming current skill level barriers. Since VR headsets are already in the hundred dollar ranges, this has great potential to be an economic revolution.
The rise of two sided demand platforms have also allowed to become professionals on demand as well. Known as the freelance economy, it is predicted that 50% of the US workforce will be freelancing in some shape or form. Just graduated with a degree in computer science but don’t have the work experience yet to work for the tech company of your dreams? Hop on Upwork, create your profile and if your credentials are valid, you would have a job assignment to tackle within hours. Our best alternative in the past would’ve been to go door-to-door, hoping that a part-time gig lands your way. Now, the time is used to develop a professional profile that is guaranteed to get you the exposure that you want. Additionally, these platforms are a resource that allow people to gather and share ideas. However, one paradox created by the freelance economy is the difficulty in landing an entry-level full time gig because now American employers are less interested in training new hires. Perhaps we dug our own grave in that matter. Perhaps we didn’t, because this level of competition forces us to be more resourceful and maximizing than ever before.
As I reflect on the changes in our lives due to these advances, one thing stands out for sure – we created technological Darwinism. Survival of the fittest has become a matter of keeping up with technology and similar to how the Galapago finches adapted, we need to leverage the digital resources available.