From Google Glass to the upcoming iWatch and much more, we’ve been reading quite a bit about the advent of wearables and their stunning capabilities. Indeed, many of us seem rather poised and ready for wearables to be the next “big thing.” In fact, the wearable concept is not all that new given the fact that some say the Sony Walkman from back in the day falls into such a category. But how ready are we, really, for Wearbles 2.0?
Early pop culture reaction to the new school of wearables has included everything from minority speaker of the House of Representatives recently asking a journalist what’s with Google Glass during a press conference to the infamous “Saturday Night Live” skit parodying the seeming awkwardness of the search titan’s product to fashionistas waiting with baited breath for what could be a slew of chic Apple wearables that will be introduced and overseen by none other than the former CEO of Yves Saint Laurent. New means opportunity to some, dread and fear to many. (In fact, wearables are so new that, of
course, my spell check cannot even recognize the word each time it pops up in this piece!) But what has been curiously missing from the convo on wearables is the larger cultural impact of these items and the main ways through which that impact will travel. This discussion is where the real excitement lies.
No doubt wearables will take the idea of being connected, to the next level for they will enable a true extension of the self. This phenomenon is what I call the advent of the “neo-human” — that is, the new appendage is technology, and it enables one to function as higher levels than ever. It fact it has been said that technology is changing our brains. But it is important to understand that what is really happening is much more fascinating than that elementary view. There is a true symbiotic relationship that is actually taking place. According to most scientists today , the sheer plasticity of the brain makes for the fact that it is always changing. And it is doing so as a result of a very cool combo of both internal desires and external forces, together, always. Thus, it’s reasonable to say that we have created the technology we use as a result of desire to facilitate our lives and, once created, the technology then almost speaks back to us as our brains interact with what we’ve decided to create. This then creates additional abilities and new desires. The cycle is limitless. We create technology, it creates us. Don’t get it twisted, as we say in hip hop.
And what I believe we are not only witnessing, but experiencing is a huge phenomenon that will only be expanded once wearables hit. Gatekeepers beware because there is a deepening of the de-centralization and self-direction vibe a ‘comin thanks to Sergey and others.
Indeed, our mindset calls for tech tools to help us and then we are actually more deeply empowered and enabled by technology which then helps us further re-think and re-define — and take greater charge. Wearbles will only enhance this capability. If “authority” wasn’t ready for the “leaderful” behavior that social media enables, it will definitely not be ready for that which wearables will create because it will ramp up this new era times 10. Media psychology expert Pamela Rutledge concurs. She told me that her work shows that wearables will further (probably) enhance our ability to get things done, which then makes us (potentially) more productive. The increase in productivity increases our self-confidence. Confidence effects elevated mood, self-efficacy — and might I add, self-determinism. Rutledge says that this all increases optimism and a willingness to take on new things.
This could very well also include new behavior and a desire to further challenge the status quo as a result of the awakening of this expanded mindset. Three key characteristics of wearables to watch for the initial phase of their introduction are monumental. First, self-tracking. The ability to monitor one’s own mood, physiology, spirituality will be a game-changer in self-empowerment. Second, speed will increase even further via wearables, but will result in chaos around context of message delivery (you know how people already inadvertently miss half your email by reading it on a phone and not a computer. Picture than ramped up and further complicated by hoaxes and hacking by tricksters). Finally, payments via wearables could faciliate peer-to-peer financial transaction empowering what has become the fast-growing unbanked and underbanked population in the U.S. (This is a bit farther off, but certainly not to be dismissed!)
These reactions and interactions will be subtle, very overt or at times, combinations of both; but one thing seems quite certain, it will all result in a further shift of power and even greater disruption. Why? Because if you know more about yourself, what does that do to your mind and how you interact with others? The answer goes well beyond wearables being solely a concern about privacy invasion or a business gold mind. The terms “lead” and “leader” will truly take on new meaning. And this will all be quite intriguing given our previous cultural structure.
But a great way to prepare for all this now is simply through greater understanding. Winners in this new era will be those who are authentic enablers of we neo-humans rather than those who continue to try and manipulate via technology. Manipulate, and you’ll get embarrassing push-back. In addition, early information sharers (rather than those who focus on sharing information about self) will become more and more deeply valued. As we move into a mindset that appreciates greater collectivity, there will be much currency in an approach that benefits the group and benefits it in the most unique way with the greatest speed.
The wild card here, however, will be the demographics of color who already out-index in social media frequency and mobile phone expenditures: African-Americans and Latino. As these groups, particularly, become more confident, we will see them push to create new conversations that both include them and are about issues that enable their well-being but had been previously cast aside by previous “authority.” They will also create their own large conversations within the group that will continue to confound the fast-eroding “mainstream.” (i.e. “Black Twitter” — a new segregationist term I hate and one that is an oxymoron given who out-indexes on Twitter anyway)
It will be an amazing ride, for certain, but one that will offer more opportunity than ever before for those are open to thinking differently.