This week, I spent some of my time home in the Midwest playing Playstation Virtual Reality (PSVR) for my first time. Funny enough, I just spent the last three weeks investigating and researching virtual reality for this same class, and despite all my reading about it, I’d never actually experienced VR. It was terrific. It was sublime. It was the future.
To me, VR is the perfect representation of “the future is now.” VR stands at the apex of consumer electronics computational power: the PSVR system watches the motions of the player and renders hundreds of tiny graphical changes per second. The result is an immersive experience that I literally dreamed about as a child.
The future is now, says VR. (and it kind of sounds like the 2019 Trend Report thinks so too!)
But maybe it’s not. Technology is incredibly rapid, but society is not. The questions are inevitable: (1) who will pay for it? (2) will it ever get taken up by society as a whole?
David Karpf’s Wired piece shows just how easy it is for the world to fall in love with the idea that technology could save us (mostly from ourselves). Repeatedly since the magazine’s inception, enthusiastic cries for technology to be humanity’s savior have resulted in a sour taste in our mouth when we awoke the next day to find life just as it always had been.
Karpf shows that imagining technology to be a savior passes the buck of solving the problems on our own. Society’s problems are of our own devising, we can’t trust technology to fix our future for us.
I suspect Rasmus Kleis Nielsen would agree with me: many of the problems facing journalism today are of our own (journalists’) creation, and the responsibility to fix them is our own. We need clever, thoughtful and responsible journalists responding to data-driven research being discovered by researchers for educating the populace of not just problems but solutions.
I agree with parts of Chuck Todd’s position, but I worry it could easily turn to fighting fire with fire. Journalists should stand up for themselves and they should stand resolute against accusations of malfeasance and dishonesty, but the tactics that put populist-cum-dictators in power shouldn’t be deployed by American journalists. I don’t think Todd’s point is that we should use the exact same tactics, but I find myself more easily agreeing with Nielsen’s research-driven argument than Todd’s combative tone.
The fact that Ben Thompson at Stratchery wrote this week about Customer Relationship Manager software and the future of “experience management” ties in nicely. CRMs are the software companies use to track the identity of customers through their business. Maintaining relationships, understanding the nuance of customer needs and diverting teams to the right objectives is the central challenge of most medium- and large-sized companies.
Machine learning, big data, blockchain and more contribute to an extremely different CRM model than previously possible. It’s now possible to know much more about a customer and their future needs, and connect production teams with them than it ever was before.
Our first question we asked here was “who will pay for the future?” Considering the $8 billion purchase of a CRM company, I think the answer to that is clear: the massive, massive corporations. Consumers will reap the benefits of the future technology that certain businesses decide to invest in, but only when the right money is behind it. And that’s not the most optimistic feeling.