tl;dr: the long-term consequences of smart phone-driven digital addiction have not even begun to unfold. The growth of the Wellness industry is one response and the ‘altered states’ economy is expected to be $4 trillion.
We’re just over 10 years into the smartphone revolution.
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We’ve all seen the charts of tremendous growth rates and adoption during that time. They are ubiquitous and almost all-consuming, as Black Mirror pointed out in Smithereens.
What we don’t know yet is what the long-term consequences will be on our evolution as humans.
Is it a life of Digital Addiction and Digital Serfdom?
Our brains evolved over millions of years and, in the last 10, we’ve been exposed to the digital equivalent of high fructose corn syrup.
It’s the era of digital obesity and whatever digital diabetes looks like, I’m sure many of us have it.
Many will never escape. It’s sad.
However, for others, I think there is a growing awareness of the actual costs in terms of personal data, privacy, loss of control, time and attention.
One indication of this is the growing Wellness industry.
I’ve started to see the headlines: Investors Bet on Wellness Tech: Startups Funded $2 Billion and Wellness Inc: 50+ US-Based Corporations Capitalizing On The Self-Care Trend.
In Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work, the authors point out that the estimated size of the “altered states economy” which covers a wide range of industries will be $4 trillion.
I don’t think this is a fad.
I think it’s going to continue to grow for a few reasons.
First, the ongoing explosion of information and “fake news” combined with the loss of trust in larger institutions will make many people feel alone. Some will react in deeply negative ways (lone shooters) while others will look for a wellness community. This could be traditional religion and it could be some combination of beliefs (e.g. vegan).
Second, the ongoing march of robots and automation in our lives will continue to remove mechanical jobs. This could be a kiosk at McDonald’s or a Roomba in our home or anything in between. No matter what…more opportunity for leisure time. What people do with that time is TBD, but some will use it as a chance to dig into the meaning of life. After all, when the Rat Race is Over, there’s still a feeling of emptiness.
Third, AI. Not only mechanical tasks but intelligence tasks.
For example, I set up a meeting in New York recently and the constraints were;
“I am arriving at Penn Station at 12:15pm. I have a 2:30 pm meeting at Bryant Park. I need a place where I can sit and meet with 1 other person for a 45-minute coffee that isn’t too loud before the 2:30pm. Where should the meeting take place?”
Today, that question is crowdsourced, Google, and manual. In the future, I just tell my AI to do it. Enough of these at the margins and you find even more time.
Put it all together and many people will have more time to think about the deeper questions and what it means to live a life of wellness.
Carl Jung said that “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul.” It will be interesting to see the different reactions people have as the consequences of digital diabetes reaches crisis levels.
As for me, I’ve been on a 7 week “Facebook Fast” for starters.
I’m also planning a 3-day silent meditation retreat for my 50th birthday You’re welcome to join. Let me know if you’d like to be on the mailing list.
Digital Diabetes and the Growth of the Wellness Industry was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.