I’m at the IBMEdge conference this week, and one of the topics that came up at lunch today was how robotics are going to dramatically change how and when we buy goods and consume services. It is really going to seem like a strange new world where we may never need to drive to work, go to the store, or physically do a lot of the jobs that people do today.
The topic that got me started on this subject was drone delivery. You see, once we get to a point where it is Amazon on steroids and we can have a drone deliver what we want within a couple of hours of when we want it our need to go to the store will evaporate. This means not only the stuff you buy from Amazon today, but stuff you likely don’t now buy from them like food and prescription medicine.
You’ll just get on your computer, tablet, smartphone, or talk to an Amazon Echo-like product and in a few hours your order will show up in your back yard, at your front door, or on your roof (if you live in a high rise you’ll likely have a platform on the roof for deliveries). Granted it may be a few more years before rural areas get good coverage and a better solution to thieves walking off with your stuff is implemented. The sustaining method will eventually be to have the goods drop near where your Smartphone is and only when you are there to receive them. Think of it as kind of like Uber but instead of a car and ride you’ll get your stuff.
Uber Takes Over Driving And Maybe Ground Based Delivery
Speaking of Uber, not only are they going to try and use their ride sharing service to deliver goods but they are well on the path to eliminating drivers and providing a service that will make owning a car nonsensical for most of us. No more car ownership. Uber is far from alone in this. Lyft and most of the large car makers are behind this change that should get human drivers off freeways and out of big cities by 2025. Rural areas will likely take a bit longer due to distances, but driving in from the country you’ll likely have to park your human driven car in a huge parking lot and take one of the car services into the city. There is a remote possibility that by 3030 personal car ownership could largely become banned in those cities, and even if you had a self-driving car it wouldn’t be allowed in unless you were a powerful politician or very rich individual. These same cars will likely replace your standard UPS and FedEx trucks for small deliveries and give these services enough of a market advantage to buy and merge with or replace these now common package delivery services.
Of course with Virtual Reality maturing it is likely that many of us won’t even need to travel. We’ll just strap on an ever smaller headset and go to a concert, job, or shopping virtually, and never actually need to leave our homes much except when we need to work out. Even working out we’ll likely find that a combination of connected gear and virtual reality will give us a better, safer workout and take most of the runners and bicycles off the road as we increasingly choose to work, play, interact, and communicate from the privacy of our own homes, and often we may never know what our new friends actually look like because we all adapt virtual bodies that are near perfect. Concepts like makeup, designer clothing (other than virtual), and even the need to get dressed in the first place give way to an increasingly rendered world.
Speaking of friends, it is very likely that by 2025 many of the people we interact with and befriend will be AI constructs. We saw an inkling of this with the Ashley Madison disclosure – most of the “women” that men thought they were virtually chatting with were in fact bots and not real at all. The current technology is advancing very quickly, and those future fake people will be able to look, talk, and interact as if they are real and they won’t get angry, will always be happy to see you, and never ask you for favors or take advantage of you except when they are designed to. I expect there will be a whole new class of cybercrime done by ever more intelligent bots missioned to mine you for money. We’ll see an ever bigger pool of aging and foolish victims who were scammed by an attractive and seemingly human artificial intelligence.
Wrapping Up: Flying Cars?
These are all not only pretty amazing, but none of them are that speculative given we can already see the foundations, both good and bad, today. But one thing I wonder about in the battle between whether things will be delivered by automated cars or drones is that once you get lots of drones that are safe to fly through cities moving their payload from goods to people becomes drop dead easy. The same technology needed to deliver a good without falling out of the sky and killing someone applies to a drone that carries a person and the same safety systems will largely need to be in place. In fact, for heavy packages even the lifting capability could fall within the same parameters. So the future choice you may get when going someplace local is whether you want to go by ground, air, or Virtual Reality.
Something to think about this week.