I wish I could answer this question but with the speed that digital is moving, I don’t think it’s possible to answer. Chances are, there are many technologies that will be in play in the future that no one has even dreamed of yet. Trying to imagine 100 years in the future, in the context of today’s technology, is a crap shoot. We can however, make some guesses based on what exists today as to where current technology will likely lead us. Please don’t hold me to this, I’m still mad at the people who predicted flying cars and jet packs when I was a kid. I still don’t have either.

The Internet
The web seems like a good place to start. I can’t imagine the web is going anywhere in the next hundred years. It remains to be seen what will happen if and when Net Neutrality goes away but let’s assume it doesn’t. Aside from speed and capacity continuing to grow, I think the biggest change will be how we interact with the internet. Looking at the past 25 years, we started from being tethered to a desktop connected to a dialup modem through a copper phone line. Next, we moved to Wi-Fi and laptops, then quickly to mobile and broadband. In a hundred years, I think we will all be wired into the net. I say this because devices are cumbersome and mind-based connectivity would seem to be the most logical step. A quick Google search shows this is already being worked on. Two examples: http://www.iflscience.com/brain/scientists-connect-human-brain-internet-first-time/ and https://www.recode.net/2017/3/27/15079226/elon-musk-computers-technology-brain-ai-artificial-intelligence-neural-lace

The pros of this would be amazing—access to all the worlds information would be a thought away, real-time translation would allow everyone to talk together regardless of language, the blind could navigate without sight, personal health monitors could constantly monitor your body and call an ambulance before a heart attack. It’s endless where the possibilities could go.

The cons however are scary. We could be monitored wherever we go; advertisers would forget about targeting you in Facebook because they could target your subconscious while you slept. Imagine how powerful it would be to advertise Egg McMuffins to you while you sleep. Guess where you are going to want to go when you wake up…that’s right, McDonalds. As amazing as the pros of being wired into the net 24/7 would be, the ability for this technology to be abused would be huge. Let’s hope future generations are smart enough to put safeguards in place.

Mobile
With the introduction of smart phones, mobile devices have become a huge part of our lives. I still remember the first time I used a cell phone to get on the internet. I was fishing with my daughter and got bored by the lack of fish. I had an LG 9200 in green—it was slow, rendered like hell, and although it wasn’t much of an experience, I still thought it was amazing to be sitting at a pond and connecting to the internet.

As amazing as these devices are, I think the age of the smart phone will be short because at some point, carrying around a device just makes no sense. If you had asked me several years ago what the next step would be, I would have said phones would move to thin film-based devices; but even these would still be cumbersome.

With the advent of augmented reality, I think that in the next 10 years, we will move to contact lens-based augmented reality devices. Imagine a device that allows you to see an extra layer of information over the real world. No longer would you have to look at a device as the content would be readily available in your line of sight. The next logical step after this would be to wire our minds into the net. I don’t see this taking even close to 100 years to become a reality. Check out this example of a contact lens-based computer.

Digital Advertising
Those of us who work in digital can see where advertising is headed. Our devices already listen to us and in some cases, see us. They know our likes and dislikes better than we do. Services like Facebook and Google collect massive amounts of data which advertisers are happy to shell out money for. Right now, advertisers are targeting fairly broad user personas, but soon they will be able to target us individually and vary the advertising we see based on our personalities. Unless there is some future regulatory push to minimize this, I fear it will only get worse and more invasive. For example, we currently have internet connected refrigerators that can tell us when we are out of milk. We aren’t far away from a time when they will also suggest a brand of milk or the store where we should purchase this.

The internet of things is great because it connects everything, but I can easily imagine a future where all these things track us and advertise to us. If you’re tired of TV commercials, just wait till your lamp starts advertising bulbs to you. Learn about IOT and the future of advertising. 

Payments
Before money, we traded with each other. I needed a sword, you needed a goat; I brought you a goat and you made me a sword. Unfortunately, paying for things with goats is very inconvenient. So next came currency in the form of gold, silver, jewels, etc. This was more convenient than livestock but still a pain to carry around, and you could lose it or get robbed. We then moved to paper money, then checks, and credit/debit cards. This was an improvement but they can still be lost or stolen. Now we are moving onto phone-based payment systems, crypto currencies like Bitcoin, and RFID technology. And although this advancement is better, issues still remain.

I see more and more stores adding self-checkouts and in a hundred years, I imagine we will try and connect payments with automated payment systems. Some form of biological implant or other technology will be able to identify us, and debit our bank accounts when we need to pay for something. People will likely just walk out the door to make a purchase. There will no longer be a cashier and it will be difficult for someone to steal your money or identity when you carry it inside of you. Again, this technology can be abused for tracking and advertising purposes. It’s far less than 100 years away and is being tested today in fact: http://www.zdnet.com/article/32m-employees-offered-biochip-hand-implants-for-work-monitoring-payments/

Video, AR, and VR
In the previous century, we went from the telegraph to radio to movies, from black and white to color TV. This took the better part of 60 years. In the first 18 years of this century, we have gone from CRT monitors to flat screens, from HD to 4k resolution, and have also moved into augmented reality and virtual reality. In the next 100 years, I see all these technologies merging to create completely immersive experiences—three-dimensional TV and movies you can watch from any angle. Targeted content will soon be available as augmented reality wherever you go.

High-definition virtual reality that immerses you will soon be in our future. Imagine visiting a museum where you receive a personal tour by a three-dimensional tour guide or a future classroom: one minute you’re at your desk and the next minute, you’re in ancient Rome to study the colosseum. Star Trek-like holodecks for training, entertainment, relaxation may soon be a possibility; it’s virtually limitless where these technologies will go. Here are some of the experts’ predictions about VR.

Conclusion
I could keep going, I haven’t even mentioned self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, or a million other things. The point is, technology is moving exponentially faster. What we have today will morph into yet unimagined technologies. Things will be so different in another hundred years, most of us couldn’t even begin to imagine the possibilities. For those of us that work in advertising and marketing, each new or improved technology provides us with new opportunities and challenges. And for society in general, each new advancement will provide benefits and challenges that will need to be sorted out by us as a whole.

Brent Martino

How can so much mystery fit into his earthly frame? Who is the man behind the unicorn mask? Is it a mask? The world may never know.