If history is any guide, in the battle between privacy and sharing, never bet against likes. We crave connection, and we trade a lot to get it. In the future, we’ll increasingly be tracked — and track ourselves — but we’ll also reap greater and greater benefits of social connection, quantified performance and personalized recommendations. Advantage will go to the open.
Where is the world headed?
We’ll live amidst continual monitoring.
From smart watches to smart refrigerators to smart city grids, a web of sensors will track our every action. Our wearables will know if we need more calcium, our refrigerator will know if we need more milk, and our car will know the cheapest place to pick it up. These consumer products know more because they watch more. We will live a monitored life, with expanded control, more information, a quantified self and cataloged memories. But will this culture of surveillance render privacy a privilege? Or an illusion?
Social experiences will dominate.
We’ll have an expanded willingness to share all of life’s moments — merging public and private. Social platforms will make sharing easy, and benefits like lower premiums, product discounts, and simply a broader sense of belonging will flow to those who are willing to share their data. Sharing will give us access (think: jobs that require social influence) and save us money (think: discounts for always wearing your seatbelt). We’ll make choices and purchases with one eye toward what’s shareworthy, always striving for connection and personalization.
Sharing and monitoring will increase demands for accountability and transparency.
When all can be shared, it will be suspicious if it’s not. And when all can be tracked, we will demand transparency. This heightened visibility will lead to a rise in ratings. Every brand we consider will have a score. And we will have more scores — sustainability scores, skill scores, stress scores, sense of humor scores. We’ll use scores to pick products, partners, companies and spouses, demanding that we see inside our choices before we make them. The rise of blockchain technologies, which have seen a 726 percent increase in global venture capital funding over the last two years, brings a distributed ledger that allows for mass verification and fundamentally demands transparency.
GE estimates that Internet of Things technology for industry has the potential to add $15 trillion to global GDP over the next 20 years.
The percentage of individuals that can be accurately identified based off only four mobile-sourced location data points.
The percentage of Americans who have personally experienced a major data breach involving health, financial or other sensitive data.
How will Dawn respond?
She’ll gain connection:
the openness that enables belonging and support
Dawn’s defaults are set to public. A preponderance of her life’s moments are meant to be shared. She stays in closer touch with friends and social experiences occupy an ever-increasing proportion of her life. She has an instantly searchable record of every picture she’s ever taken and every memory she’s ever made. She resists anything that demands unplugging. Why shut out social connection? Sure, every once in a while she goes on a digital detox, but just recently she bought a driverless car mainly so she could keep texting on her commute.
Dawn is always connected.
How many Internet of Things applications will be in use worldwide by 2020 (in billions)?
She doesn’t make any decisions without getting them crowd-verified, asking the friends in her social network what dress to buy or a panel of doctors what pain reliever to pick.
Everything she interacts with knows her. She feels like she’s being watched, but it’s a tradeoff she’s willing to make given how much more convenient it is when her apartment, her coworking space, even her tennis shoes remember and predict her preferences.
Dawn trades her privacy for convenience. But she has a heightened awareness of the value of the deal. She has learned her data is worth a lot, and shuts out brands who don’t keep their side of the bargain.
Which European country was the first to enable its citizens to register property on the blockchain?
She doesn’t trust any company that asks her to. She trusts transparency, and she demands that her contracts and valuable items are registered in the distributed ledger.
Dawn trusts the distributed ledger technology of blockchain over anything a corporation simply tells her.
… but she’ll also gain anxiety:
what do people know about her? How is she perceived?
Since everything’s tracked, she’s pretty anxious about performance, trying to increase her sustainability score, her fitness score and her emotional connection score. Since her data has become a currency, she wonders how to spend it, who to spend it with, who she should trust with it. Since much of her life is visible, she’s more anxious about approval, often wondering if she’s spending her leisure time right or if her crowd will like the shows she’s streaming. She feels very socially connected, but this visible life also amplifies anxieties as she constantly compares herself to her friends’ very visible best selves.
Dawn governs her life by what will curate her best self on her public platforms.
How does the risk of anxiety compare in adults who use over seven social media platforms vs. those who use less than two?
It’s already happening
(a future-oriented scenario built exclusively from companies operating today)
Dawn wakes up to the soothing alarm of her Sleep Cycle, which wakes her at her lightest sleep phase. Her Fitbit incorporates her Sleep Cycle data into the amount of exercise she should get for the day. The data is sent to her health insurance provider to determine if she qualifies for a discounted rate. When Dawn reaches for her toothbrush, her toothbrush holder detects the motion and triggers her coffee machine to begin brewing. As Dawn brushes her teeth, her toothbrush sends health data to her dentist, and she scrolls through her Facebook Live feed to get a glimpse of her friends’ lives from around the world — a bad habit she’s trying to kick, as it only increases her own insecurities. She gets an alert from Sensus, which notifies her that electricity pricing on her smart grid will peak over the next two hours. With one tap, she switches all her electronics to low-power mode. Dawn never interacts with products or services that receive 3 stars or below on review platforms like Zocdoc, Amazon and Angie’s List. She chooses everything — from her health insurance to her coffee maker — because of their 4+ star ratings. She sits down at the kitchen table and sends a quick Snapchat of her top-rated coffee to her friends, opens her laptop and starts working.