Hands off my body
Also interesting are the effects of technology on the human body and health. The cell phone is already called the 79th organ, but we also saw examples of nutrition – based on consumer profiles and big data – completely modified to meet the individual’s needs. Additionally, IBM Watson offers a sentiment analysis to adapt the products offered in a web shop to your current mood. 23andMe offers the possibility to have a DNA-analysis executed by sending in a sample of saliva, by which you learn about your ethnic origin and ancestry, matching you with other profiles of possible relatives. 23andMe Participants are then asked to make their profile available –accompanied with a medical questionnaire – for helping research diseases like Parkinson. The idea is to become able to predict the chance of getting a certain disease (based on your DNA profile compared to ‘big data’) and as such start a preventive cure much earlier. As you may understand, it is hard to align regulation around privacy and health insurance with these kinds of rapid developments.
The Singularity University presented an interesting view on the speed of technological development. For decades, technology has been in continuous development, although people always kept desiring for more. In other words: people could keep up with the speed of technological developments. We have now have passed the point at which technological advances faster than people and even companies can cope with. For some, these rapid developments still offers opportunities, but for others this causes “disruptive stress”, or chaos. As soon as robotizing warehouses persists and AI with voice surpasses the quality of human call center agents, this will result in vast unemployment in these work fields. At the same time, the need for humans in IT and data analysts will further grow. In the end, maybe there will not be a huge decrease in available jobs, but rather an increased mismatch between supply and demand on the job market, resulting in a bigger gap between the rich and the poor. This gap was made visible in a striking way by one of the participants of our study tour, by showing both a picture of the line in front of the food bank and a picture of the line in front of the San Francisco Apple store, where people were waiting for the new iPhone 7. The daily news bulletins opened with the latter.
First dents are showing
Three years ago we had also visited “the valley of innovation”, and although much of the power and charm did not change over these years, every now and then we noticed some dents are beginning to show. Things like “we have heard that story before” (for example to the question whether Amazon would come to the Netherlands, or whether they consider Alibaba as a threat). Other examples are about the market being a mix of trendy startups and mature tech Molochs. The number of IT jobs recently broke the record that was set during the internet hype fifteen years ago. In the meanwhile, large IT companies are starting reorganizations and the amount of available capital has decreased. Moreover, San Francisco is losing its creative minds due to the immense cost of living and the daily traffic jams. In the end, these only seem to be relatively small dents in a growing industry that is still going through the roof. And honestly, after a view on San Francisco Bay, you are likely to take these dents for granted.