I’ve been a big fan of Harald Neidhardt’s MLOVE since the beginning and have spoken at the Confestival outside Berlin that’s held in wonderful old Schloss. So I was delighted to contribute to the MLOVE Lifestyle of Mobility book when Harald asked me a few months back, along with many leading thinkers and writers about the mobile space.
You can order your book here, or see a Preview copy and this was my contribution.
MLOVE, the Future and Liminality
Have pity on Charles Duell. He’s often remembered as the Commissioner of the US Patent Office who came up with the memorable quotation “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Unfortunately for Mr Duell’s place in history, there’s no evidence that he said anything like that, though a similar sentiment was expressed by a predecessor, Harry Ellsworth. Harry seems to have got away with it though.
But it’s a great story and serves very well to illustrate how difficult it is to understand technology change when you’re living though it, as well as our natural tendency to think that we’re living at the end of history – whereas we’re very probably just arriving at the very beginning of humankind’s real journey.
I’ve both spoken at MLOVE and written extensively about the power of exponential change driven by technology and how this can build very slowly – and suddenly overwhelm us in the final stages. Such change is going to lead to the mobile taking over as our main digital device (the PC is dead), to the Post-Mobile Era (in 25 years, the mobile will be 1 Billion times more powerful and the size of a red blood cell) to the Singularity itself, when computers take over from us – forecast to be about 2045. Ray Kurtzweil’s recent appointment as Engineering Director with the mighty Google goes a long way to making this a self-fulfilling prophecy.
All this indicates an era of unprecedented change for humankind, our cultures and society structures – not the least gifting our citizens with characteristics that would be regarded as superpowers by our parents. We’ll have enhanced intelligence, telepathic-like skills, life-spans extended by many times the natural period, instant access to all the world’s information and superhuman physical assets like strength, endurance and speed will be available for all.
However, it’s not as simple as that, as no one can really know exactly how and what will all play out. Instead, we’re in a state of liminality. Liminality is a useful word, first coined by anthropologists and refers to the threshold experienced in rights of passage rituals (often drug induced), where the participant was between their old state and before they were fully aware of the new. If you’re an MLOVEr, you’re in the privileged position of being in that state of liminality before the rest of the world catches up with us. We know that there’s some fundamental and revolutionary change arriving in the next decade or so, but we can’t tell exactly what they might be.
However, the beauty of the state of liminality if that while we don’t know the details, a mere awareness of what might be possible is going to influence the outcome. So let your imagination run wild, think about the world you’d like to see next and start making it happen. Your ideas are just as valid as everyone else’s and for me, that’s what the spirit of MLOVE is all about.