I had the immense fortune to be able to visit the MIT Media Lab this week. Quite honestly, it was the most interesting and inspirational thing I’ve have the privilege to do in a long, long time. I was in pretty much in geek heaven. It was awesome to be immersed in trends, topics, business models & innovations that are generally 3-5 years ahead of mass adoption. (Well mostly 3-5 years ahead.)
MIT Media Lab history
The MIT Media is 30 years old and has been at the forefront of technology and human interactions for all this time. The Media Lab thinks that the future should be lived not imagined. It’s a really powerful way to conceptualise the future of technology. If you are interested in learning more about the background of the Media Lab, here’s a good link. http://www.media.mit.edu/about/mission-history
Obviously there is a lot happening at the MIT Media Lab that I can’t write an article about… but there are also quite a few things that are already in the public domain. Plus most of the things below are really my interpretation and thoughts after visiting rather than specifically about the MIT Media Lab.
Here are the 10 things that most resonated with me.
1. Simply wow. Firstly – there are a lot of very, very smart people at the MIT Media Lab – doing some absolutely amazing things.
2. Deploy (demo) or die. Similar to publish or perish but with a twist, the MIT Media Lab team like to think about demo or die. They would prefer to demonstrate or practice something rather than live in a world of theory. The impact of this is incredibly visible with ‘test and learn’ projects happening everywhere. I like to think of this as the MIT Media Lab version of “you write to think”.
3. Technology as an enabler of social wellbeing. Rather than creating barriers or distractions (for example zombies walking along texting), technology should enter a new era where socialisation and wellbeing are enabled and enhanced. This is quite a noble cause… and a trend that I will watch with a lot of great interest. An example of this on a very small scale is BITbyBIT or Behavioral Intervention Technology. Absolutely fascinating. http://bitxbit.media.mit.edu/
4. Engage rather than consume. Our interactions with different types of media will move from consumption to engagement. Consuming something seems so one dimensional whereas engagement can be more like an ecosystem. Accordingly, the business models around how we interact and engage with media, particularly advertising models, will need to adjust accordingly.
5. Pixel rather than screen. The content & context will become much more important than the screen size, especially as wearables & sensors become mainstream. The proliferation of devices that have small screens will require / demand new types of small screen content and features.
In my opinion, a similar trend occurred with smartphones with two main waves of innovation:
Wave 1 – Content / functionality was just shifted from large screen to small screen and didn’t take advantage of the new features / capabilities of the smartphone.
Wave 2 – Content / functionality specifically designed to take advantage of the smartphone form, factor, functions. e.g. geolocation.
6. Sensors will enable the merging physical & digital. The ways in which we interact with technology will become less about a screen and more tangible with the use of sensors, robotics, materials and Artificial Intelligence. The basis of interacting with machines has primarily been the GUI for the past 30 years – sensors will change this paradigm – and create specific, purpose built interfaces.
7. Structuring the unstructured. As the amount of data created increases exponentially, we will need to aid our human cognition of that data by overlaying structures we can easily understand. There will be new, yet undefined, structures that will have immense value and will generate new business models in their own right.
To explain this concept a little more… I think a good example of a structure that creates value is Amazon Recommendations – Customers who bought this item also bought. It creates a structure for us to understand the immense catalogue of Amazon products.
8. Trust is personal. Another structure that aids cognition, that in my view is changing, is brands. Trust is moving from organisations to people, or to a personal level of trust. Airbnb, Uber & eBay are all examples of personal-level trust. Trust is moving into media as well with content creation / curation, such as Mashable, Twitter & Google, changing the way we trust and respect media. Trust models are going to change significantly over the next 3-5 years.
9. Feedback for prediction. As data and analytics become more pervasive, building feedback loops into our communities and systems will become more important than ever. The decision making capabilities for predictive analytics will require more closed-loop systems to be put in place.
10. The Principles. Self explanatory, and very simple, but very powerful. (From http://www.media.mit.edu/about/principles)