22 October 2016
With technology evolving constantly and invading every aspect of our lives, one can only guess how the future will be for humankind. Photo: Bloomberg
With technology evolving constantly and invading every aspect of our lives, one can only guess how the future will be for humankind. Photo: Bloomberg

Imagining our future in the digital era

Albert Einstein once remarked that “logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” Right now, in the modern world, technology is transforming our lives in ways that go beyond our imagination.

It has been more than 16 years since the last tech bubble burst roughly around 2000. Since then, technology has created a world on its own – a cyber world.

Internet connects physical things through digital technology, which has been evolving and developing its own world.

Now, we no longer need to be in a distant land, say Kiribati, to figure out how the place looks like. With Internet, the world is just one-click away.

As an e-commerce practitioner, I find myself asking the question: are we, humanity, ready for a new era of imagination of things?

For the future, I have three predictions:

Smaller, but faster and more intelligent

On April 19, 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted that processing power will double roughly every two years as smaller transistors are packed more tightly onto silicon wafers, boosting performance and reducing costs.

Now Moore’s law is visible all around us as 3 billion people carry smartphones in their pockets, with the devices more powerful than a room-sized supercomputer back from the 1980s.

However, speed isn’t everything. Making transistors smaller had stopped serving the purpose of boosting energy-efficiency. As a result, the operating speed of high-end chips has been on a plateau since the mid-2000s.

While the benefits of making things smaller have been decreasing, the costs have been rising. Companies have been shifting to cloud computing, rendering even larger possibilities for enormous data storage.

Software is capable of smartly utilizing data to yield intelligent output, like AlphaGo. Automation software can select customized information to meet your various needs, be it news, shopping, travel or even dating.

But we come to this question: Are human beings being manipulated with these types of information and data?

Will the coin turn to the other side, making computers take over our decisions? As we rely on the outside brain, will we be become less independent?

Cyber world may take over physical world

Within the new normal digital world, we see a new form of retailing, matching demand with available inventory. There are stores and brands without physical existence. Would this spell the end of shopping malls?

New brands can now just access customers directly. A lot of manufacturers are starting to create custom made products/brands based on data analysis and consumers shopping pattern online.

According to market research firm eMarketer, social network ad spending will reach US$35.98 billion by 2017, representing 16 percent of all digital ad expenditure globally. B2C ecommerce sales will reach US$1.5 trillion in 2018, according to online data portal statista.

With shopping just one click away, economic packaging and local sourcing would be key elements for success.

Where will all this lead us next? Moore’s law was never a physical law, but a self-fulfilling prophecy – a triumph of planning by which the technology industry coordinated and synchronized its actions.

While AlphaGo demonstrated partly human brain works, here is my prediction for the next imagination of things:

Cyborgs: human augmentation

Some human beings (or those with disabilities) would be willing to enhance their capabilities by installing new technology to their physical self. They would be half robots and half human.

New York-based artist and activist Neil Harbisson would be the perfect example. He has installed an eyeborg to assist him in overcoming colorblindness.

No one has a crystal ball to predict the future but one thing is certain: the future is full of uncertainties but also possibilities.

At this year’s World Economic Forum, global experts said the world is now facing the fourth industrial revolution.

Indeed it is an exciting time for us to imagine how to live a world that goes beyond our imagination.

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Senior Manager, APAC Merchandising and Strategic Marketing, eBay

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