The Digital Revolution
The most profound shift happening now is the one from physical to digital. In terms of concept this follows all the other big transitions of the past: agriculture->industry->services. However, in terms of scope and in terms of its effects, this transition is much bigger. All other shifts in the past have been within the physical medium. This is the first time we are transcending mediums. At the same time, we continue to project the future only in terms of the physical medium. For example, when it comes to transportation, the main discussion is what the car of the future will be. One of the boldest predictions that I have seen so far, for example, is an autonomous EV run by a DAO. That still assumes that the physical world will remain the main medium for humanity. But what if that is not the case? How can we reconcile that the brightest human minds are discussing computer brain upload and transhumanism while at the same time entertaining the idea of humans going from point A to B still in a box? The two ideas are incompatible.
A big diversion
Technology has at last developed so that Virtual Reality (VR) has the potential to change humanity profoundly. VR is closely linked to the idea of sub-consciousness and we are already spending 1/3 of our daily life (on average) in such a state while sleeping and dreaming virtual worlds. In fact, the conscious state is just a cover of the subliminal perception which determines to a large extent our actions. It is the guardian of the virtual world and by filtering through only that which we are able to make sense of, it creates the ‘real world’ which we inhabit in our conscious states.
Our human body processes information through the senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell) in various ways we are most of the time not aware of because our consciousness does not have the ability to analyze all this data. To a certain extent, consciousness leaves a lot of stuff on the table when it comes to our understanding of what is going on (no wonder humans have always tried various means to transcend our conscious state). It only gives us just about enough information so that we can ‘survive’. The bottom line is that the process of VR is a natural continuation of what we humans are. The physical reality has been good to us so far but perhaps we are at a stage of development which we can start to ‘make sense’ of the much bigger world which sub-consciousness can reveal to us, a world in which we can not only survive but prosper.
Back to the ‘car’ of the future
It is not inconceivable that in the future a VR machine would be the main means of human ‘transportation’. Even today we travel less for work and pleasure, we shop on line, we prefer to play video games than participate in outdoor activities, we hang out in virtual chat rooms and engage with our friends on Facebook, etc. And even if there is work in the future, most likely it would not be of a physical nature which would mean that we would be able to do it ‘from distance’. And if VR eventually is able to re-create the same emotional experiences which we now encounter in real life, travelling for pleasure would also be minimal. It does not mean that humans would not move in the physical world, but that would be a ‘luxury’.
Forecasting auto production numbers, whether EV or ICE or whatever that far in the future (2030-2040), etc. becomes a totally meaningless exercise. It is not just that though. Forecasting anything that has to do with the physical medium becomes a non-linear exercise: energy demand, consumer behavior, health, education, etc.
Policy makers need to take that into account and do not submit to calls to spend blindly on old-fashioned infrastructure. Investors need to think laterally how the VR world will totally change some of the existing industry sectors. We might not know which would be the company of the future to bet on, but we could do well to identify some of the companies which are less likely to make it in the future VR world.