To predict the future of social networking we should probably make a couple of assumptions that anyone can agree with….
• Computers will continue to get smaller.
• Computing technology will continue to get less expensive (I would say cheaper but the sales guy in me can’t help but position a statement even as benign as this one ?).
• If each of us continues to grow our social circle, social networking will eventually connect everyone.
• The statistics tell us social media communication is surpassing email and phone usage. If we use social media to communicate instead, we’ll continue to use social media in ever increasing ways in our lives. If we’re using social media for more things, we’ll use social media more often.
• Technology will continue to get easier to use; barriers to acceptance will continue to diminish drawing in more and more people.
• A side note to make this scenario work: We’ll eventually run out of oil. This means easy access public transportation used by everyone. It also means less travel in many ways. We might have high speed rail to take us from our suburb to city center. A similar type of rail will take us from one city to other cities. But for local…we’re probably using human energy so walking, biking… and more staying home. I think we can safely say the majority of us will commute to the office by walking down the hall from the bedroom. If we stop off to get a Starbuck’s it will be in the kitchen.
That should do it. So let’s think about the future for a few seconds. First of all you can picture we’re wearing different clothes. Usually it’s some version of what we wear today in the form of a skin tight leotard thingy. Let’s picture our setting. In most science fiction it’s off world, but no matter where it is, it’s seemingly clean indoors and pretty disgusting, scary and dark outdoors.
OK, stop. I’m not going to write the first chapter of my science fiction novel. But let’s all bring up our individual images of the future world in our minds for a few minutes. These futures will likely have the following attributes: The future will be…
1. very virtual
2. mobile and accessible
This is a pretty rosy future I’m predicting. For the most part we’ll work from home or our local communities (1). Our interactions will be via “the web” (2). It’s just that the web will likely take the form of having universal wireless technology and the interface has to move to audio in some combination with projected images when required. The keyboard has to go…its size prevents further miniaturization. The good news is voice recognition gets better every year.
If we work in isolation we’ll likely never have great ideas, hence the requirement for collaboration (3). You can’t just think harder to get to your solutions…that will only take you so far. (No matter how hard you screw up your face, you can’t make yourself taller either). To get that epiphany; like that moment on the show “House” about ten minutes before the end when the music changes and he finally gets to a diagnosis…you need input from another source. You need “additional information”. To break out of the rut; to get the light bulb over your head, you need some external stimulus.
Being part of a social network draws in voices from disparate sources. Everyone in your network can participate (4). Anyone can speak up (5). We all have an equal stake. We work together pretty well as long as it’s not a discussion of Mac Vs. PC. Then we all have an equal stake in arguing.
Be sure to see my evolution chart at the bottom of the page!
To tell you the truth, this isn’t a description of the far future…we’re probably there today (without the leotard). Most of us work from virtual offices…I too have to periodically apologize for the dog barking in the background during the conference call. Access to the internet is essentially ubiquitous (McDonald’s, Panera, Starbucks, the library, the airport, the mall, the office building lobby, Google’s efforts for whole cities).
And for the last twenty five years I’ve been working with one team or another to get my mission accomplished. By nurturing a culture that rewards daring, creativity and good ideas, most of us can work in a group sharing the one piece of information the team requires to move forward. I, for one, love when another team member points out something I haven’t thought of. Until then I didn’t even realize I was stuck.
We can all marvel at crowd sourcing and open innovation, but social media has enabled the networking required for that vision of the future to exist in our daily lives today. True there are some obstacles to success. When collaborating we need to figure out how to surface “quality” (the flipside problem when there is no such thing as a bad idea).
And if everyone is connected we need to winnow down “the quantity”. But the algorithms for electronically filtering out “the noise” already exist amongst idea management software vendors. When they can work in real time, your office will feel like the bridge on the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek with you starting a question with “Computer, answer this question for me…”
The world of social media and social networking is easy for all of us to embrace probably because no one of us is as smart as we need to be. No one of us is as smart as “all of us”. But armed with the intellect of my 2000 Facebook friends and my 2000 LinkedIn connections…I can probably solve any problem.
You just can’t make me wear a leotard.