How can we satisfy manhood’s need for growth while preventing a climate disaster from happening, with an increasingly shorter runway ahead? A very realistic alternative might be Extended Reality [ER]. A new term combining Virtual, Artificial and Mixed reality, fuelled by Artificial Intelligence.
“Even better than the real thing, yeah” U2
Paradigm of growth
One of the suggested alternatives to mitigate the increasing detrimental effects of climate change is to review some of the fundamentals of our economic thinking. One of these paradigms is our desire for “growth”. The fact that we should re-consider the ‘Growth’ paradigm is a valid point as this might stop us depleting the world from our natural resources and prevents further pollution.
However, changing behaviour of mankind is one of the hardest things to do. In April 2020 our Co2 emissions dropped by 17% due to Covid Lockdowns. Now we’re back to pre-Covid levels. This indicates that the fantastic turnaround on pollution has been again sacrificed on the altar of growth. We think, act, breath and live ‘growth’. It’s in our DNA to aspire for more, for better. We have the need to outperform. ‘Growth’ is our metric to measure progress.
How Extended Reality can help
Many artists have painted a future where ER played a key role, e.g. Spielbergs movie PlayerOne. A world where people could totally immerse and live a satisfying life due to the many emotional aspects build into the cyberspace. Already today we see many examples. Kids are spending real money in games, purchasing apparels to make their avatars look cool and to impress friends. Bitcoin, Blockchain, NFT, etc are all examples of the real economy transcending to the virtual world.
So next to gaming and entertainment, many economies can be transferred to the virtual world. Think of markets, banking, institutions, research, education, healthcare, engineering and many more. We merely need to have a look at our activities during the 2020 lockdown.
Still few companies embrace ER
The growth potential (here we go again) for ER is phenomenal. Todays market of USD 21bn is estimated to be USD 95bio in 2025 according to Goldman Sachs. Interestingly enough we mostly see US tech companies dominating the top, for example Oculus VR, HTC, Microsoft, Unity and Alphabet/Google. And a few Asian players like Samsung and Quytech. There are no European and limited Chinees players. Where are all the industry leading companies? Shouldn’t they be the dominant player driving the innovation conundrum of virtualisation? They should prepare for an existence in the virtual world. Meaning they have to do much more than opening a webshop, and communicating to customers via TikTok.
Virtual world means new business models
These companies have to find out what business model could work in a virtual world. What services will resonate and which ‘blue oceans’ are there to concur. Yes, growth, yet green growth! But they have to be quick as the Tech companies seem to be swallowing more and more of the future margins of the current sector champions. Let the ER innovation roll from a non-tech company perspective.
Green growth with ER breakthrough innovations
ER definitely has the potential to satisfy our needs to growth yet in a more climate friendly manner. Yet, to achieve this potential, there are a number of breakthrough innovations required. Innovations could be accelerated if companies take an ecosystem approach to address this. Imagine a non-tech company, let’s say a retail company, combining the following parties in defining their need for Breakthrough innovation: an ER tech developing, a gaming and a real-estate company. And imagine they collective invite everyone globally to submit ideas with a TRL north of seven or eight. For sure the forementioned combination will quadruple the innovation speed. They will be surprised how many solutions are already present yet waiting for a company to help them scale.
Innovation is also needed to counteract a number of negative side effects which start to emerge. One of them is related to privacy and well-being. Research has shown negative effect of intense social media usage by teenagers, resulting in 47% of teenagers feeling more unhappy when spending 6-9 hours per day on social media, compared to teenager who devoted less time. Another side effect is related to the enormous energy consumption related to data-centers and the e-waste associated with the digital world.
Perhaps one day we can run these collective breakthrough campaigns in the virtual reality. Probably even better than the real thing!