We are all born and reborn to and by the internet.
We are now facing and feeling the mind-boggling experiences and lifestyles that are being shaped by an assemblage of technologies that blur the limits between the physical, psychological and digital worlds.
What we have now is an amalgamation of technology advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things , 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other cutting-edge technologies.
We are now in The Fourth Industrial Revolution.
This Industrial Revolution is the collective force behind many products and services that are fast becoming indispensable to modern life.
Think GPS systems that suggest the fastest route to a destination such as Waze, voice-activated virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri, personalized Netflix recommendations, and Facebook’s ability to recognize your face and tag you in a friend’s photo.
As a result of this perfect storm of technologies, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is paving the way for transformative changes in the way we live, disrupting the way we behave, think and even dream.
Scarily or excitedly, it’s all happening at an unprecedented, whirlwind pace.
It is not unusual to hear these days about the emergence of digital natives—people who enjoy highly personalized experiences; but as the speed becomes faster than speed itself, digital natives are being replaced by a new breed—the “AR/VR or “Mixed Reality natives.”
As PR professionals, and communication scholars and educators, we must also accept that in the not so-distant future, we will have to target and engage Mixed Reality natives.
And this exciting world is already here and now and the only questions we should be asking ourselves are “How are we living up and meeting the challenges posed by this phenomenon? How should our behavior be in this environment—should we fear, be perturbed, excited or welcoming?”
Examples of such mixed-reality experiences already exist and abound and are creating a wow effect for users and consumers. Surely you have known or even played Pokemon Go, for instance. It has single-handedly popularized Augmented Reality games among the multitude.
During this Khunian paradigm shift laced with transgenerational Future Shock, life and living are changing and expected to undergo a complete metamorphosis in the next few years.
Every aspect of the world that is now familiar to us will alter—which means that the fashion in which we eat, drink, shop, work and communicate with others will become different.
Communication, in fact, will witness one of the biggest changes, from the normal chit chat between individuals to the way businesses “talk” and interact, especially with their consumers.
Public relations and communications campaigns are now all about “personalized relations”—immersive, defined, tailored, surgical even.
Companies are targeting diverse demographics and personas with content that is tailored to what they want and demand. Organizations have realized that targeted social group conversations, direct outreach, and customized search campaigns work better than one-size-fits-all messages.
Therefore, whether it is news, views, entertainment, business interactions, travel or any other facet we find engaging, we will have to aim for a Mixed Reality offering that is immersive as well as interactive.
With video exploding, and live streaming happening on every social media platform, PR professionals and communicators will also have to expand their vision to include this “new normal” technology. We will have to recognize that going ahead, the majority of the content that people consume online will be video. The rise of instant messaging will be a game changer as well.
Communicators will need to be wary, meanwhile, of an alarming trend that can seriously jeopardize our very existence. This trend is, of course fake news, which is simply playing havoc with the lives of professionals and the companies we work with. To add, deep fake is the more alarming avatar of fake news where Artificial Intelligence is used to make anyone say or do anything on video.
The communications professionals of tomorrow, therefore, have to straddle new-age tech which detects fake news, have the skill to unearth the nuances of social media and at the same time connect with bloggers, have the ability to conceptualize and create videos, decipher SEO analytics, and much more.
Now that may seem like a lot to do, but communicators have to ready themselves for interacting with the Mixed Reality natives. This will require constant change and innovation.
However, let us not forget that despite and in spite of the technology that drives this Fourth Industrial Revolution, we must never forget that this epochal phenomenon does not demand “humans versus machine.” Instead, it dictates an environment that thrives with “humans plus machines.”
While it is tempting to point to technology as the key differentiator for communicators in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we must all remember people comprise the most important source of competitive strength.
We, humans, have the knowledge, the talent and the tools to solve some of the world’s biggest problems: hunger, climate change, diseases. Machines will supply us with the insight and the perspective we need to reach those solutions. But they won’t supply the judgement or the ingenuity. We, the people, will.
At the end of the day, humans are necessary to leverage the full potential of intelligence and intelligent technologies. As Klaus Schwab said during the World Economic Forum, The Fourth Industrial Revolution can be summarized as the increase in productivity due to artificial intelligence and hyperconnectivity.
Diverse new technologies are being proposed that integrate the physical, biological, and digital worlds, and new technology will be embedded, even in the human body.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution can compromise humanity’s traditional sources of meaning—work, community, family and identity—or it can lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a sense of shared destiny. The choice is ours,” Schwab said.
Therefore, as we move ahead and meet the challenges of now and in the future, I encourage all communicators to never forget our humanity in the cacophony and cornucopia of emergent technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. —CONTRIBUTED