On the 12 technology forces shaping the Future by Kevin Kelly


Kevin Kelly is a 65-year old CyberCulture Writer and founding Executive Editor of Wired Magazine (circa 1992). He wrote New Rules for the New Economy and What Technology Wants.

In 2016, he published a non-fiction book, The Inevitable, which forecasts the twelve technological forces that will shape the next thirty years (~2050). getAbstract, a company that creates abstracts of books for business customers summarised the book and rated it a high 9 out of 10.

Kevin’s Forces

In this article, we will go over just 2 of the 12 forces as we are constrained for length. The two we will be discussing are; cognifying and screening.


Cognition refers to “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses”. This concept has been applied to computing and has been applied in numerous Artificial Intelligence applications. Cognitive computing is the simulation of the human thought processes with computerised models. They utilise techniques like pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works. However, building and deploying such systems are expensive (capital and knowledge-wise) as such only large companies like IBM, and heavily-vested digital companies like Google and Facebook tend to make the most progress in this field. As such, AI systems are not being sold as commodities like Sugar.

However, Kelly believes that in the future, AI will be affordable (aka commoditised) and ubiquitous, that is everywhere we look.

AI will be affordable and ubiquitous

One good example of this already happening is in Cameras – Google’s Lens utilises a SMART algorithm to analyse objects and pulls up information on it.

He acknowledges that there was a time of “AI Winter” (circa 1984), where there was reduced funding and interest in AI research, as a result, scant progress was made. But as we can see now, with the growth of companies like Google (founded: 1997), it has picked up momentum.

The third era of automation firmly sits in this bucket.


Better thought of as “screen-ing” (use of screens) than screening (the process of sieving). The movement from “fixity” as Kevin likes to put it to “fluidity” is something that is (and will continue) shaping our future. Paper and Hardback books once purchased can only be in one place at a given time. But with electronic mediation usually accessed via monitors and screens, a digital book can be in your hand (Kindle) and in your mail at the same time

Kevin references the terms “People of the Book” and “People of the Screen”. The former, he claims, favours authority and are in conflict with the latter, which he admits are in the majority.

Books present some of the most interesting applications of “screen-ing”. With advancements in e-books and their readers like Kindle having both the look-and-feel of a traditional book. Alongside ticketing in the transportation system have been “screen-ified”. For instance, in the metropolitan city of Lagos, blue and red BRTs (Bus Rapid Transits) utilise a system where intending passengers have to queue up for a paper ticket which they will then submit to a ticketer who validates and mutilates. On the contrary, in more advanced cities like London, they utilise an Oyster card which can be tapped against a reader which displays in a monitor your balance/the money taken out.

Screens will tell people the stories of their past and future by provoking them to dig for information, to act and to think in real time.

Going back to our Book example, (e-) Books with screens now allow us to go deeper in real-time. For instance, I can easily look up the meaning of words by highlighting a text, right-clicking and choosing the “Look up [highlighted_text]” functionality. Same way, I can easily click on hyperlinks to learn more about a particular topic.

In another post, I will write about Sharing and Accessing. In the future, we will share much more than we are currently doing thanks to social media and blogs. Also, it will be more about access than ownership. It will be an exciting read as they are two of my most passionate things.

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