Advances in computing technologies over the past few decades have pioneered the evolution of the human to cyborg.
Computers are gateways to a new market where attention is traded as currency.
In this market, money follows attention an in turn, attention drives business. Social media platforms, streaming platforms, websites, and applications race to capture attention and in turn, attention drives business. Social media platforms, streaming platforms, websites, and application race to capture attention by strategically exploiting a new necessity for connectivity. Those who master and commoditize new technologies win in the market.
Humans Are Already Cyborgs
While we aren’t yet physically attached to them, computing devices have become powerful extensions to the human body and mind. Computers are powerful tools that offer irresistible advantages, improvements to quality of life, and seemingly unlimited possibilities.
We are also still holding onto our real lives in the physical world, but we certainly are spending a large amount of time in the virtual world, and it seems that we are on a trajectory towards devoting all of our time in the virtual world.
The MIT Cyborg Experiment
In her book titled Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT and the founding director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, writes about seven young researchers who fully immerse themselves in the virtual world and consider themselves to be cyborgs.
This experiment serves as an example of the next step in the evolutionary process. The cyborgs wore displays that sat in front of their eyes, keeping them in the digital world. The only difference between the cyborgs and most humans living in 2020 is that the displays are attached.
We are constantly looking at displays:
- desktop computers
Every year we become more deeply immersed into our devices, and more connected on the web.
Turkle even goes as far as to say that “This is the experience of living full-time on the Net, newly free in some ways, newly yoked in others. We are all cyborgs now” (Turkle, 152).
It seems plausible to imagine a time in the near future where screen usage reaches one hundred percent, considering the speed at which devices have been adopted as an extension of the human body.
Relying On Computers
Computer’s have become such powerful tools for solving computational problems that we couldn’t solve without them.
New innovations that drastically improve the quality of human life makes immediate adoption of these technologies completely irresistible.
As new improvements to the quality of life continue to become available through devices, it will become nonsensical and too inefficient to operate in the physical world. We use computers because they allow us to be efficient at solving problems.
It also seems reasonable to say that as we continue to push the bleeding edge of computing technologies, we are able to solve complex problems that we could never have imagined before.
The problem solving ability of a human without access to a device is arguably much worse than that of one who can Google search millions of solutions to a problem, each of which have achieved credibility through ranking algorithms in search results and have been reviewed, commented on, liked, shared, and contributed to by others.
With that being said, easier access to tools that solve complex problems also raises the lower standards of human problem solving capabilities.
If we look at how computers have disrupted manufacturing jobs with robotic automation, we can see how businesses have unsurprisingly prioritized efficiency.
If we consider the problem of navigation and path finding, the use of physical maps has become almost non-existent due to the incredible solutions that GPS technologies now offer.
All varieties of systems and ways of performing complex and everyday tasks will continue to come and go, constantly being uprooted, changed, and improved.
In the process of studying computer science and developing new technologies, the first question is always: “what is some aspect of human life that needs to be improved, solved, or discovered?” From this, it appears that ultimately the process of technological innovation is to minimize the amount of problems that humans encounter.
Furthermore, this powerful benefit to computing technology is another reason why perpetual adoption of better computers is not only irresistible, but also inevitable. Humans have succumbed to the ease of life that computers provide and left the possibilities of dangerous hidden implications to chance.
Just decades ago, humans never could have imagined robots driving vehicles for them, and were certainly reluctant to prefer putting their lives in the hands of a machine. Now we see Teslas on the road at scale. According to an article written in April of 2020 by Lora Kolodny, a reporter at CNBC, “Elon Musk noted on March 10 that Tesla had produced it’s millionth vehicle” (Kolodny).
We also have another company emerging as proven innovators in the space of autonomous vehicles, Comma.ai.
Comma.ai is currently providing autonomous functions that they report work best with:
- 2017–2020 Toyota Corollas
- 2016–2019 Honda Civics
- 2015–2019 Honda CR-Vs
- 2016–2019 Toyota Priuses
- 2016–2019 Toyota Rav4s.
As with GPS technologies, in the near future autonomous vehicles will be the new norm. There are countless examples of technologies that we never imagined would become widely adopted, quickly become widely accepted and used at scale.
It then seems foolish to think that total immersion in the digital world will not eventually be a normalcy.
With all things that change, resistance is common at first.
But ultimately, humans are on a trajectory towards becoming just like the cyborgs at MIT, and we’ve not yet seen a formidable resistance to rapid technological innovation.
As immersion in the digital world continuously proves to be disproportionately efficient compared to life in the physical world, we can reasonably expect time spent on devices to increase and eventually reach a point of little to no return to the physical world.
Business On The Internet
Marketing and advertising has evolved in parallel to, and in response to the evolution of the human to cyborg.
Reaching as many potential consumers has always been one of the primary goals of marketing and advertising, and that has not changed in terms of the digital landscape.
Before smartphones existed for the average consumer, phone books were commonly used to find local phone numbers.
Businesses paid to advertise their products and services in phone books because they knew so many people were frequently using them.
Prior to the introduction of streaming and video services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and many others, most people were watching cable television. Advertiser’s took advantage of the massive reach that popular television networks were garnering, and were paying premiums for air-time in between breaks in the shows.
The cost of infrastructure and production of video programming for cable television was high, which meant that only broadcasting companies with a large budget could afford to have a channel.
However, several factors have addressed the bottlenecks involved with production and distribution on television networks.
In chapter three, titled Cable’s Digital Future, of Cable Visions: Television Beyond Broadcasting, François Bar and Jonathan Taplin outline some of these particular factors:
First, fiber optics and electronics have greatly increased the capacity of telephone, cable, and wireless infrastructures.
Secondly, various competing companies own these new infrastructures, meaning that there is no single gatekeeper to program distribution.
Thirdly, digital technology lowers the cost of the equipment needed to produce video programming which allows more people to create content.
Lastly, that digital technology spurred the proliferation of devices able to display video streams, and the internet served to connect the entire system together, allowing anyone to create, distribute, and consume content anywhere and anytime. (66)
Gary Vaynerchuk — Prolific Internet Entrepreneur
New strategies for garnering attention through marketing and advertising are aiming to take advantage of the scale that computers and the internet provide.
Gary Vaynerchuk, a prolific entrepreneur, CEO of VaynerMedia, and pioneer of digital media marketing harps on the importance of the attention of consumers in terms of marketing and business.
Vaynerchuk has managed to successfully capture the attention of millions of consumers by producing massive amounts of content across a plethora of popular platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, his own website garyvaynerchuk.com, and a number of others.
He also openly criticizes some of the largest advertisers for neglecting to recognize that consumers are spending vastly more time on these popular platforms, and more specifically on their mobile devices.
In an article on his website titled The Gary Vee Content Strategy: How To Grow And Distribute Your Brand’s Social Media Content, Vaynerchuk describes his “reverse pyramid” content strategy, and why it’s so effective for his brand and businesses.
Embedded within the article is a presentation that outlines this strategy which shows how his team took one of his keynotes, repurposed it into over thirty pieces of content, and then successfully distributed all of that content, which resulted in over thirty five million views (Vaynerchuk).
His strategy emphasizes maximizing the quantity of distributable pieces of content across as many of the most popular platforms as possible, thus maximizing potential reach.
Vaynerchuk has become an influential model for large corporations, small businesses, and entrepreneurs who have also found incredible success with this strategy. Because of the scalability and low barrier to entry, we can almost be certain that as the usage of computing devices increases, marketing and advertising will shift away from the physical world and into the virtual world.
Furthermore, we can expect that nearly all of business, marketing, and advertising will follow a full transition to the virtual world.
Where Are We At Now? (2020)
Now, let’s identify the current state of the digital landscape and explore some implications of life and business in a completely virtual world.
The internet is truly what makes us a global civilization. As we know, connection to the internet is now available across the world at a low cost.
Not only do all people have access to the same information, they also have access to the same people, i.e., the same attention.
This excludes individuals in countries that enforce restrictions on internet usage such as: Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Iran, China, Myanmar, and Cuba (mariedemontsoult.com).
By nature, the internet is essentially a level playing field where acquiring customers for business is predicated on one’s ability to capture attention.
Most socioeconomic factors that potentially create barriers for business no longer exist in this new market on the internet.
The Cost To Create Business On the Internet
If we consider the cost of entry to creating an online business and attracting attention, we only need to consider the price of at least a decent smartphone. As of may 27, 2020, a refurbished iPhone 6 costs around ninety US dollars.
In theory, this is really the only tool one would need to build an incredibly profitable internet business. With it, one can:
- record and edit high definition videos
- take high quality photographs
- create high quality graphics
- publish and communicate with consumers and other businesses on all major platforms
- accept payments.
For such a small cost, the ability for creating businesses is unlimited.
Simultaneously, consumption of content on computing devices is exploding.
“Binging” shows on Netflix and YouTube has become a popular buzzword. Many internet business “gurus” will often suggest that creators produce collections of “binge worth” content.
This method of cultivating content keeps attention on the creator.
The popular MMORPG game Runescape will recommend to the player that they have been playing for a while and should consider taking a screen break. Video games are built upon giving the player a feeling of achievement, a concept that can often lead people into an addiction to playing them.
“Grinding” is another popular buzzword amongst gamers which is at its most basic, a phenomenon that involves playing for incredibly long amounts of time to achieve goals, like gaining rank, earning game currency, increasing game or character abilities, and maybe most importantly, creating content centered around the game.
This dynamic cyclical internet ecosystem with creators and consumers is what drives the digital landscape.
Ordering products and services on the internet has also exploded.
According to an article published on Oberlo by Thomas J. Law, titled 19 Powerful Ecommerce Statistics That Will Guide Your Strategy in 2020,
“It’s estimated that there will be 2.05 billion global digital buyers in 2020” (Law).
This is a massive jump from the reported 1.3 billion in 2014.
The second interesting eCommerce statistic in this article is:
“In 2020, ecommerce sales are expected to account for 15.5 percent of retail sales worldwide” (Law).
That is double the reported nearly 7 percent in 2015.
Since products and services are now conveniently accessible from websites and applications, more users will continue to order products online rather than spending the extra time, effort, and money to purchase at physical locations.
For businesses, moving towards an eCommerce model cuts out costs for brick-and-mortar such as employee wages, land, equipment, etc.
The Bright Side Of Advancing Computing Technologies
While acceptance of the idea that we are cyborgs may be difficult for us right now because it’s a concept that makes people feel uneasy, we should consider the potential benefits to a completely virtual world.
As technologies continue improving the efficiency of all aspects of human life, perhaps some of the current greatest challenges that humanity is facing could be resolved.
ECommerce could potentially greatly lower the natural cost of transportation which is our carbon emissions and use of fuel.
Also, with the promises of Elon Musk’s Neuralink: a brain-machine interface that would be far more intelligent than the human cortex.
Essentially an implant that allows a superintelligent machine to control parts of the brain that perform specific tasks.
Potential applications for this are at first mostly individuals with neurological brain impairments.
But if we consider the broader applications of a brain-machine interface, humans would most definitely be able to become vastly more efficient at finding and retrieving from incredibly large amounts of information, be able to communicate without ever needing to touch their cell phone.
All of these unimaginable capabilities that advances in computing technologies give to humans, is what drives us to use them blindly.
Humans are now symbiotic with computers, and even super intelligent computers. A human with no social media profiles is essentially non-existent in the world.
We are surely on a trajectory towards full immersion into the digital world.
We may not know which technologies will prevail over others: AI, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Cryptocurrencies, and so many others will compete to solve all of the problems that humanity currently faces.
Occasionally, an organization will master a new technology and dominate entire portions of the market, such as Amazon, Facebook, and Alibaba.
These organizations have achieved unbelievable financial success from focusing on advances in technology that will capture attention from users on a massive scale.
Humans have proven to blindly follow new advances due to the irresistible convenience and quality of life that they provide.
Not saying there should be, but unless there are more regulations on businesses making proprietary software, we can be sure that monopolies will continue to hold reins over entire sectors of industries and men will become some of the richest in the history of the world.
Originally published at https://austinhoward.tech on April 22, 2020.
Kolodny, Lora. “Tesla Soars on Delivery Numbers — Company Delivered 88,400 Vehicles in Q1.” CNBC, CNBC, 2 Apr. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/04/02/tesla-tsla-1q-2020-production-and-delivery-numbers.html.
“Countries Where Internet Is Forbidden Or Limited.” Maire De Mont Soult, www.mairiedemontsoult.com/countries-where-internet-is-forbidden-or-limited/.
Comma.ai — Supported Cars, comma.ai/vehicles.
Vaynerchuk, Gary. “Don’t Take Attention For Granted!” GaryVaynerchuk.com, 6 Nov. 2017, www.garyvaynerchuk.com/taking-attention-granted/.
Garyvee. “The GaryVee Content Strategy: How to Grow and Distribute Your Brand’s Social Media Content.” GaryVaynerchuk.com, 30 Jan. 2019, www.garyvaynerchuk.com/the-garyvee-content-strategy-how-to-grow-and-distribute-your-brands-social-media-content/.
Law, Thomas J, and Thomas. “19 Powerful Ecommerce Statistics That Will Guide Your Strategy in 2020.” Oberlo, 11 May 2020, www.oberlo.com/blog/ecommerce-statistics-guide-your-strategy.
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011.
Bar, François, and Jonathan Taplin. “Cable’s Digital Future.” Cable Visions: Television Beyond Broadcasting, edited by Sarah Banet-Weiser et al., NYU Press, 2007, pp. 66–84. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qg15n.8. Accessed 29 May 2020.