The Information Age has transformed how we live, largely for the better. Ideas and solutions can stretch much farther with the help of digital tools and information. For example, over the course of the Information Age, not only have mobile phones become commonplace, but they can now be used for critical tasks such as, health monitoring, emergency dispatch alerts and local disease or radiation exposure notifications. However, we’re on the cusp of a new era, with the Information Age seemingly on its last legs. As the Information Age comes to a close, what major developments will define the next era?
Knowledge Age: If one thing is true, it’s that data doesn’t necessarily equate to knowledge. Who will be able to remember what they see browsing the Internet today in 527 days? Only the most sparing and regimented Internet users may be able to recall such information. Now is the time to refocus on quality over quantity when it comes to content, articles and even memes. As algorithms are developed to automatically judge the quality of what’s contained in media, filtering on mass media platforms will steadily improve. There’s also an open field for tools for thought, with great products in the space like Code, Google Drive and Creative Cloud, but no real leader. The next evolution may include products that aim to automate more of the idea generation process (see Automation Age), with some companies already working toward that goal (Webflow, Figma, OpenAI).
Automation Age: With the rapid innovations in AI and ML, it’s only a matter of time until automation takes over significant parts of our lives. Driverless cars, seamless real time speech translation and processing, operating systems that can “think” (yes, this idea has a movie about it), going from WYSIWYG building tools to WYTIWYG (What You Think Is What You Get) and so much more is possible through reliable and accurate neural networks.
Analytical Age: Perhaps at some point after the Automation/Knowledge Era, technology will develop until the currency of trade is what one thinks. The value of knowledge workers will boil down to how well they can problem solve and think, as interfaces for building solutions will have become so simple they’ll require little to no effort to utilize.
Experience Age: Screens can be polarizing. They take us out of the present moment and drop us into a new, rich environment (The World Wide Web, usually). As devices change how we interact with technology and the world (e.g. Fitbit, Airbnb, VR Gaming), we may become more focused on the present. New innovators may also try to drive ideas towards people less interested in “picture-perfect” moments and more interested in creating and embracing special experiences.
Individualist/Collectivist Age: Heightened connectivity and information access can lead to individuals both feeling very much a part of something bigger than themselves or feeling disconnected from others due to the overwhelming nature of what’s out there. As digital products and our social fabric keep evolving, we might see the growth of strong communities not just on the local but on the worldwide level. On the flip side, with how much is out there to learn, experience and do, people may feel more driven to explore their self-definition and embrace individualism.
Immortality Age: With big pharma growing in size and medical research hopefully reaping the rewards in cures for diseases, human mortality should steadily increase. This could lead to an age where living for abnormal lengths of time (200+ years) will be a possibility not just to those who can afford the upper echelon of health treatment but the common person.
Exploration Age: If economic growth increases and the entry cost of traveling to personal destinations decreases, exploration (specifically of the unknown) can become the trend of the next age. Instead of focusing on finding spaces to profit from, creative, bright minds may look to find new spaces to drive change in the world.