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16 December 2019

Augmented Humanity: a vision for our relationship with technology from 2020 and beyond 

Isobar on its aspirations for a future where technology enriches human experiences

As we approach a new decade, the world is primed for change. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that we are heading into the turbulent 2020s where the values of leaders are perceived as disconnected with the people, the health of the planet is in crisis, media can be read as fiction, social justice issues are hot-button and even democracy can be hacked. 

2020 is a landmark year for reflecting on 20 years of change – and technology has been at the centre of that. How we communicate, research, conduct our work, manage our homes, manage our finances, stay informed, entertain ourselves and track our health has evolved in unimagined ways since the turn of the millennium. We are phasing out of the ‘information age’ and into the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ of transformative technologies like robotics, mixed reality, artificial intelligence and human-machine interfaces. Whilst it’s impossible to predict the impact these technologies will have, we can envision how we wish our relationships with technology to evolve in the coming years.

That vision could be, ‘Augmented Humanity’ – an aspiration for technologies and digital experiences that enrich lives, enhance human experience and power sustainable progress – at its best, benefiting people, profit and planet. 

Here’s how businesses can work towards a shared vision of Augmented Humanity in the coming decade:

Experience will be a critical difference

In a landscape where any business can compete on desirable product, a direct-to-consumer launch can disrupt a market and consumers move from ‘ownership’ to ‘access’, value-added experiences will be what creates differentiation. Whether retail, media, entertainment, finance, consumer goods, fashion or healthcare, all businesses are now in the business of experiences. Technology impacts the ‘augmented humanity’ experience on both sides of the coin. On one side it can create smooth, seamless interactions with complicated or convoluted activities made discrete, fast, efficient –more enjoyable. On the other side of the same coin, technology can elevate those experiences to magical, inspiring and unexpected effect. 

Businesses will evolve with the audience

Welcome to the age of the empowered consumer. Where businesses were once closed off, exclusive and protective, customers are now actively invited to input, co-create and shape them. What’s more, this empowered consumer is also challenging businesses on their practices and holding them to account, whether it’s how customer data is managed, how advertising represents diverse audiences or how processes contribute to sustainability (or not). We’ve already witnessed with the significant impact of the ‘empowered consumer’ within commerce with the rise in direct-to-consumer brands and retail steadily migrating to where the consumer is – on social. This responsiveness and agility is key to safeguarding businesses for the future. A transforming business can move with and create holistic offerings for the audience, unlocking new audiences and opening new revenue streams. 

Businesses will invite audiences into their ecosystems

The empowered consumer has prompted an evolving business culture dominated by ‘listening’ over ‘instructing’ and has subsequently permitted brands to become more intimately involved in the wider issues that affect their customers lives. This is why US consumer brand Casper could claim to be in service of ‘better sleep’ which allows it to creatively diversify from retail mattresses into gesture-based lamps, CBD gummies and whatever it chooses next.

Businesses will help consumers un-tether from technology

Technology is an integrated aspect of our lives but true ‘augmented humanity’ will be achieved in our untethering from it, on multiple levels. As the average number of connected devices rises to seven per person in 2021, the challenge will be to up-weight technological innovation that makes our lives ‘better’ but eradicates the pitfalls of distraction, disconnection, addiction and over-reliance. This will become all the more important as Gen Alpha mature into next generation technology users. The next big leaps will be a consolidation of technologies and a dematerialisation, from hardware to software, data-based solutions and systems infrastructure.

Businesses will practice corporate data responsibility 

‘Data’ has become a true extension of ‘technology’. Its opportunities will only truly be optimised when it is collected, managed and applied under a rigorous framework of ‘corporate data responsibility’. This includes augmenting technology with humanity -  ensuring people are at the heart of authenticating content, combatting problematic algorithmic biases and adding warmth to sterile data sets.