The Second Uncanny Valley

A few weeks ago I wrote about the new Tintin movie in the context of the Uncanny Valley (read my article here).

While searching around for a clear diagram illustrating the principle, I stumbled upon an article called The Second Uncanny Valley on a site called Open the Future, which features a load of really interesting stuff by a guy called Jamais Cascio.

Cascio is a futurist who centres his thinking on the question: “what if human beings, and all of our technology, could actually manage to change things for the better?” He’s an optimist, and one who’s interested in ideas as far ranging as geoengineering, climate science, renewables, open source, emerging tech, social networks, ethics and transhumanism. He’s also spoken at TED. Interesting bloke, really.

Which is why when I saw the below, in the context of the above, I felt quite childish when my access point to considering his ‘Second Uncanny Valley’ as an academic framework are media such as Transmetropolitan, Neuromancer or even Lawnmower Man. Take a look:

Just for clarity, his principle thought is that in a posthuman world, Masahiro Mori‘s Uncanny Valley theory (green area) would need to be extended out into this new blue area:

Once a significant number of us are opting for cosmetic cyborgism, seeking out other human upgrades, or even just trying to fake it, we’ll probably feel quite weird about having transhumans (or homo superior as Magneto might say) walking among us. That’s the second uncanny valley, right there.

Guys like Kevin Warwick (pictured left) are probably the first wave of posthumanism yet to plunge into this new uncanny valley. All he has is a chip in his arm that opens doors on his university campus. He claims to be the “world’s first cyborg”, but as many of you will know, the upcoming singularity will see a lot more of us merging with the machine world.

The ultimate end, perhaps the ‘radical posthuman’ at the far right of Cascio’s model, might be an entirely discarnate consciousness: thought without body, or more likely a digital embodiment. And that’s as familiar, on this scale, as the industrial robots at the opposite end. But Cascio might say ‘not in a way that’s uncanny’. And he’d go on to say:

I wanted to be clear on a distinction between things made/evolved to be like humans, and things made/evolved from humans […] the H+ era is likely to see a diversity of morphologies, both physical and cognitive.

Not to put words in his mouth, but with all of the things we might evolve to become, physically, mentally, virtually or otherwise, I think the idea is that we make a sort of ‘leap across’ the second uncanny valley to a place where we’re comfortable with our future lives.

Basically, technology, don’t creep us out.

The Future of Travel

You would think that working for a well known Travel magazine certainly increased my chances of being able to write about the ‘Future of Travel’ for Digital Cortex but not until I had actually sat down, pen in hand, or more aptly, fingers poised, did I realise how difficult it is to identify the future trends of such a broad, generic, well-loved topic as Travel.

Everybody has their own opinions on Travel, from the 2.4 children working class family on a Malta Bargain break to the AB’s of this world who can afford such luxuries as Carrier and Seasons bespoke holiday packages. Not to mention the difference between the ‘gap yah’ boom to the off-the-beaten track anti gapper’s, who consider themselves the “real travellers”, and all those in between. There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t think about their next holiday or escape from the real world, and so it is with great trepidation that I dip my toe into the murky waters of travel trends.

Despite this apprehension however, it is fair to say that the recent economic downturn has affected people’s overall attitudes on Travel, and it is this fragility of the economy that has created certain market changes that I believe will stick for many years to come after it has recovered.

Firstly, it has become evident that people are far less content to have a ‘fly and flop’ holiday. More and more people are looking for authenticity in their travels, and, most importantly, experiences that are unique to them. This may seem like an idealistic ambition from the backpackers’ world but it has now quite clearly extended all the way through to the luxury sector – with tour operators such as Abercrombie and Kent offering luxury photographic expeditions or bespoke, private safaris. It is this ‘Travel as a Narrative’ that people are beginning to demand – not only are they looking for authenticity, but because of this ‘fear factor’ induced by the recession they are investigating exactly what their money will purchase and whether this constitutes added value. Or, more importantly, a unique emotional experience.

With the help from The Future Laboratory, the trend forecasting company who have identified and coined the aforementioned ‘Travel as Narrative’ phrase, I have also explored a few other market trends that are likely to grace our travel horizons in the not too distant future…

Menaissance

The new and improved male traveller, the Renaissance of Man or ‘Menaissance’ are the men who are now seeking cultural or gastronomic pleasures on their travels, rather than simply getting hammered on cheap booze. It is this strong desire to be seen as connoisseurs in sectors such as gourmet food, fine dining and wine that is the driving force behind this new breed of travelling male. They want to return from their travels as well informed, interesting human beings with a new level of cultural understanding and intelligent conversation. As The Future Laboratory reported – ‘If the ‘New Lad’ was about hedonism, and the Metrosexual about appearance, then ‘intelli–gents’ are all about celebrating the cerebral’.

Slowtopia

This may be a piece on the future of travel, however, it turns out that one of the future travel trends is harking back to the past- back to the fabled, golden age of travel when it could often take days and days to reach a destination by train or ship. As consumers’ lives speed up and become more superficial, they are seeking a deeper more cultural experience – they want travel to be sophisticated, glamorous and cool again. As opposed to the utter stress and hassle most people associate with flights etc of the journey, they want to enjoy the simple pleasure of actually travelling, whether this be in a car through Europe, or the slightly more adventurous trans-Siberian railway.

Conscience Travel & Voluntourism

The rise of the Eco-Traveller, although seemingly evident with the choice to off-set carbon emissions on flights, is still a far from being a reality. Although being green and eco in other aspects of life is already being practiced, only 1% of 1,263 respondents to the The Future Laboratory survey said that they had taken an Eco holiday. But there is still hope, as 44% of the respondents said they were thinking about taking an Eco holiday/travelling. Some companies are already promoting these however, for example The Ritz Carlton’s Give Back Getaways programme where guests can spend half a day contributing to environmental projects. It is getting involved in the local communities in this way that makes people feel like they are ‘giving back’ whilst also enriching their holiday experience and essentially having a story to tell.

Astro-Travel

It would be foolish to talk about the future of travel and not touch upon the new realms of aviation that have been very recently bestowed upon us – slipping Earth’s gravitational bonds into space. Not cheap and incredibly exclusive, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo unveiled last year takes six lucky paying passengers up and away into the unknown, whilst the Astruim Spaceplane created by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company will take four people to a height of 60 miles above the planet to experience four minutes of weightless joy one can only dream of.

Summary

Despite briefly looking at Astro-Travel, overall it looks like unless we can create SOS–Travel (Sub-Orbital Slingshot planes that will cut the travel time to anywhere in the world to a maximum of two hours) the future of travel will be slow, cultural and green, with the emphasis on gaining a unique story to tell around the dinner-party table when you arrive home.

A message from Tom: Thank you FutureHarriet for this great contribution to my series ‘The Future Of…‘ Readers, let us know in the comments your thoughts on this piece, the trends you may have identified, or the most exciting holiday destinations you think we’ll be passing through in the near to distant future.

The Future of Love

Love is here to stay

Human beings are hard-wired to love. As babies, we rely solely on the love of our parents for our survival. As adults, our instinct to love keeps us producing those babies.

So what is the future for love?
Guest blogger Lindsey Mountford investigates:

Love is a drug.

The state we call the “honeymoon period” is known as being in limerance, and there are specific things going on in our brains (darling, when I look at you my ventral tegmental area lights ups with the power of a thousand suns and my caudate nucleusis floods with enough dopamine and norepinephrine to fill a thousand seas) when this happens.

The pharmaceutical industry will cotton on to this and produce pills to keep the spark of love alive. We already take vitamins, Viagra and Prozac by the bucketload to improve our standard of living, so why ignore this incredibly important aspect of our emotional lives?

If Big Pharma is clever it will market the drug as a health supplement.

Heart Beat
Prescribed Love?

Worried that it’s not ‘real’ love? In the future the lines between what we think of as real, virtual, enhanced or fake will be more blurred anyway. We won’t mind.

Prenuptial agreements will be accompanied by brain scans which will ‘prove’ we’re marrying for love. Marriage counselling could take place in the EEG/fMRI scanner, with new versions of neurofeedback therapy helping us get our relationships back on the right track.

Love is good for your health.

Once we’ve all given up smoking and we eat well and exercise, what’s next on the agenda? We may be seeing NHS leaflets encouraging us to go speed-dating. We may even be prescribed the Love Drug described above.

More likely, we will be offered more education about love, which starts in schools and continues at the GP. It’s happening already. Interpersonal psychotherapy is an evidence-based talking therapy which helps people with relationship skills. The benefits are improved mental and physical health, which last a lifetime. The NHS is already investing more money in IPT, and will continue to do so.

Love is big business.

There are thousands of dating sites out there, catering for more niches than anyone knew existed. (Geek lover? Got a Stashe Passion? Zombie looking for love?) This diversification won’t continue.

The truth is, there are lots of unconscious things going on when we fall in love. We are not always good judges of our own characters (and we can’t help lying in our profiles.) We’re not good judges of characters of others and we often don’t have a good understanding of we should be looking for in a partner that will make us happy.

OKCupid are doing some very interesting things with the data they’re gathering from their millions of members which finally gives us real data about what makes a good match. When Google gets involved, things will get interesting and result in love.google.com

We won’t need to spend several hours writing our profiles trying to sell ourselves.

A Google spider will find all the things we’ve ever written online (On Buzz, Twitter, blog, social network profiles etc.), then text analysis software like Alceste will scan it and suss you out based on:

  • keywords (i.e. I mention ‘books’ a lot on my blog)
  • frequency of keywords (I mention books a LOT)
  • moods (i.e., I complain a lot, especially in the mornings)
  • thought patterns (i.e. I can get overexcited and Tweet a lot)
  • sentence structure, grammar (i.e. I’m an informal writer, but I don’t use three exclamation marks in a paragraph and I don’t write LOL.)

Then Google Love will look at all that juicy data it has about us as individuals:

  • film/TV/music preferences (Lovefilm, Spotify etc.)
  • interests (browsing history)
  • food and household purchases (Tesco clubcard)
  • travelling and going-out habits (Oyster card)
  • sociability (activity levels on social networks)
  • relationship history (on social networks)

Google Love will gather an overwhelming amount of data on millions of people and track the course of their relationships. Using all this knowledge, eventually Google will be able to create a Love algorithm to find the ideal partner for everyone.

The Google Love algorithm will be big and beautiful, and it will work.

Marriage, sex and robots.

Most visions of love in the future involve a lot of casual sex (thank you male sci-fi authors.) As sex becomes safer with improved contraception, people will be doing more of it. Google Love won’t care if you’re unavailable, if your data is there then you can be ‘headhunted’ by a love interest. If you were told you had a 98% chance of falling in love with someone wouldn’t you want to meet them?

Roxxxy Sex Robot

‘Traditional’ marriage is a crazily outdated concept. In what other area of life would we accept a contract that we sign when we are intoxicated (see ‘Love is a drug’ above) that is binding until death? As life expectancies continue to increase, marriage must have more flexibility. Perhaps similar to a mobile phone contract – minimum of 10 years with a rolling annual contract afterwards.

There’s definitely a place for the robot girlfriend and BritneyBot. The BoyfriendBot version will be sophisticated software only, programmed to send romantic/loving messages and emails throughout the day to satisfy her need to feel adored.

Love is a meme.

That instinct for all-encompassing love from an all-powerful, benevolent, omnipotent being we have as babies never leaves us just because we become adults, so we invented God to fill the gap. For a long time, religious love was seen as True Love.  We evolved to believe we’re the centre of the universe and it’s a heady feeling to be told that God loves us.

But now the philosophers have dug a God-shaped hole in our heads, what replaces it? Look at the popularity of the Twilight Saga to see what is happening already. The fantasy of romantic love and our instinct for religion meet in stories like this, and the result is 85 million books sold worldwide.

Stories about love (seen in films, books, magazines, perfume adverts, family and friends) propagate the love myth and make it stronger. The supernatural love meme will become stronger and more powerful. Vampires aren’t going anywhere.

If music be the food of love, play on.

For your listening pleasure, here is a a collaborative Spotify playlist of love songs.

Thanks for reading! It would be very romantic of you to leave a comment below.
Oh, and do subscribe to be notified of the next entry in this blog series.

Welcome To The Future

I’ve been promising this to friends, fans and followers for a while now, but I’m finally ready to reveal this year’s big Digital Cortex project (last year’s was this).

It’s a series of blog posts under the title ‘The Future Of…’ and I’m really excited about it, because as well as spanning some fascinating topics, I’ll also be tapping up several guest bloggers from the Digital Cortex community – and if you’re reading this post, that most definitely includes you!

Lets look at some of the upcoming areas of exploration:

Architecture available
Beauty available
Books/writing taken Lindsey
Cooking taken Tom
Earth taken Richard
Family available
Fashion taken Laura
Film available
Food available
Gaming available
Healthcare available
Hobbies taken Ian
Housing available
Interfaces available
Love taken Lindsey
Mobile taken David
Money available
Music available
Politics taken Ben
Religion available
School available
Social Media taken Matt
Society taken Ben
Sport taken Nils
Theatre available
Travel available
Television available
University available
Web available
Work available
Your Topic Here get in touch

Based on my interactions with many of you, and the sheer breadth of expertise amongst this blog’s readership, I know there is limitless potential to curate a truly great piece of work. Of course, there is plenty of scope to add/modify/remove topics from this list, so drop me a line on the contact page to register interest.

And for those who aren’t looking to contribute, but want to stay in touch as things unfold, here are the usual subscription options:

Experts Predict The Next Decade In Mobile

Rudy de Waele has been a busy man. He’s curated 37 of the world’s most notable voices from Mobile & Academia for inclusion in his Mobile Trends 2020 slide deck – a collection of thoughts on where we’ll all be this time next decade:

“I asked some of my personal heroes in mobile to write down their five most significant trends for the coming decade. All of them have been of great inspiration to me during this decade: for their ideas, visions, talent, the capabilities to adapt and the perseverance to succeed whatever the situation.”

Here’s the deck. Hit fullscreen for best viewing experience:

These are my five stand-out ideas from the presentation. What are yours?

Digital syllogomania:

Digital garbage collection becomes a (very) lucrative business
Slide 10 / Fabien Girardin / Researcher at Lift Lab

Sensors:

Mobile devices will have sensors added which will enable the capture of local data from temperature to noise and from location to who else is on the room
Slide 13 / Tony Fish / Entrepreneur

Cellular voice dies:

It truly becomes another form of data on the next generation data networks
Slide 30 / Kevin C. Tofel / Managing Editor at jkOnTheRun

Mobiles manifesting AI:

Fulfilling, at last, the vision of “personal digital assistants”
Slide 33 / David Wood / Principal at Delta Wisdom

New sonic experiences:

Augmented reality, 3D sound, will create new mobile audio formats and end user experiences
Slide 41 / Atau Tanaka / Director of Culture Lab

Date For Your Diary: The Singularity

You saw it here first (possibly).

Ray Kurzweil is a futurist and a proponent of academic thought on the subject of the technological singularity.

He states that there will come a point in human history where computer power matches our own thinking ability, therefore allowing us to interface with machines on a one-to-one basis without the need for a medium.

We’re talking simulations of your mind running on a machine, and the potential to upload information from computers into your mind.
Hot shit, right? Very Johnny Mnemonic.

Anyway, the news just in is that Ray has mapped out the future as follows:

So then:

Human Brain Functional Simulation – coming 2013.
Human Brain Neural Simulation for Uploading – coming 2025.

Nuff said.

 

WIRED Intelligence Briefing

My esteemed colleague Mr. James Wheatley this morning attended the first of WIRED magazine’s Intelligence Briefings, where they aim to share some of the trends that they feel are going to be most impactful over the coming year.

He has identified the main ideas from their presentation, which I repost here:

A New Era of Etiquette:

Through social media our online reputations now require careful management. Our social profiles are available for numerous people to see, share and comment on – and there is an emerging importance on the etiquette attached to these public profiles.

The most important etiquette rules identified were: Always credit the work or links of others; Always be respectful even in disagreement; Companies can not pose as customers; You can ignore friend requests; Privacy must always be respected.

Social Networks have a Half-Life:

We’ve seen this from Friends Reunited, Bebo and Myspace – is Facebook in danger of having peaked already, or by allowing companies to come in and create widgets, will they be able to stay in the sun?

Google’s Achilles Heel:

Twitter has stepped ahead of Google with their developments in realtime search. Will Google be able to keep up and is this the first technological challenge to Google?

Individuals vs Corporations:

The internet has allowed new ways for individuals to organise outside of their organisations. Companies will be transformed as new generations of employees introduce expectations of transparency (think whistle blowing scandles, MP’s expenses, etc).

The Media are Becoming Unpoliceable:

With media consumption and production more liberated from geographic boundaries, attempts to monitor and control consumption will be increasingly difficult for UK regulators.

New Types of Abundance Require New Types of Scarcity:

With so much content now available online to users, attention from consumers is becoming a greater challenge and a scarce resource.

Watch Out, Sport:

First it was music and films, now “pirate” sports streams are on the rise – 27% of WIRED readers would consider illegally accessing a live broadcast of sport. Piracy normally grows due to high costs or lack of access – and sport ticks both those boxes.

Comments were that the Premier League in particular need to tie up their access via one central publisher/access point globally, and make access more affordable – otherwise pirate streams of premier league football will continue to thrive.

Nice one James, it sounds like it was really interesting session, and be sure to check back to see if any of my readers have any questions for you!

Quite an open format – their aim was to share some of the trends that they feel are going to be most impactful over the coming year. In typical WIRED fashion, everything is centred around fresh thinking and innovations rather than being market focussed, but still quite interesting. 

Have summarised the main trends below – I’ve got a handout if anyone wants to read anymore as well:
A new era of etiquette: Through social media our online reputations now require careful management. Our social profiles are available for numerous people to see, share and comment on – and there is an emerging importance on the etiquette attached to these public profiles. The most important etiquette rules identified were: Always credit the work or links of others; Always be respectful even in disagreement; Companies can not pose as customers; You can ignore friend requests; Privacy must always be respected.
Social Networks have a half-life: We’ve seen this from Friends Reunited, Bebo and Myspace – is Facebook in danger of having peaked already, or by allowing companies to come in and create widgets, will they be able to stay in the sun?
Google’s Achilles Heel: Twitter has stepped ahead of Google with their developments in realtime search. Will Google be able to keep up and is this the first technological challenge to Google?
Individuals vs Corporations: The internet has allowed new ways for individuals to organise outside of their organisations. Companies will be transformed as new generations of employees introduce expectations of transparency (think whistle blowing scandles, MP’s expenses, etc).
The Media are becoming unpoliceable: With media consumption and production more liberated from geographic boundaries, attempts to monitor and control consumption will be increasingly difficult for UK regulators.
New types of abundance require new types of scarcity: With so much content now available online to users, attention from consumers is becoming a greater challenge and a scarce resource.
Watch out sport: First it was music and films, now “pirate” sports streams are on the rise – 27% of WIRED readers would consider illegally accessing a live broadcast of sport. Piracy normally grows due to high costs or lack of access – and sport ticks both those boxes. Comments were that the Premier League in particular need to tie up their access via one central publisher / access point globally, and make access more affordable – otherwise pirate streams of premier league football will continue to thrive.