Just about everyone depends on digital technology today. Looking at the more than 12,000 men and women included in our newest study, 95% of Prosumers and 87% of the mainstream say they own a smartphone. And 6 in 10 admit that, other than when it’s charging, they always keep their phone within reach. In this study, we explore the tensions new technologies bring, including worries over privacy and the impact of intelligent machines.
Key findings include:
For 1 in 5 millennials, virtual trumps reality. Most of us live in two worlds now—our “real” lives on planet Earth and the virtual lives we have created online—and increasingly those worlds are colliding: More than a quarter of millennials report feeling depressed or unhappy about their own lives in comparison with the idealized lives they see online. And around 1 in 5 prefer who they are on social media to their actual selves. At what point will the allure of the worlds and personas we have carefully crafted online become more valuable—and even more real—to us than our flesh-and-blood existences?
The wall between our consumer and private lives is eroding. Our front doors have long been a physical and symbolic divide protecting our most intimate lives from view. This will change as consumers give brands virtual house keys, inviting them to stock their refrigerators and drop off other products when the homeowners are out. Drones and other new technologies will allow our properties and perhaps even home interiors to be scanned in order to trigger brand offers (upgraded patio furniture, anyone?). Security and privacy have become a currency more people are willing to exchange for convenience and fun.
Humans 2.0 will be lazier and dumber. Human beings have long had a complicated relationship with artificial intelligence (AI). We dream of the convenience of robotic housekeepers even as we immerse ourselves in dystopian tales of robots run amok. Our study reveals that it is not robots we fear so much as our own baser selves. Will AI ultimately make humans lazier and less able to solve problems on our own? A majority of our global sample believes that will be the case.
Divided, we fall. Our online communities have become echo chambers in which we shield ourselves from news and ideas not in synch with our existing worldviews. This will only get worse as more people make social media their primary source of news, as a majority of Prosumers and millennials already do. Nearly half our global respondents agree that social media is a fracturing force and is reducing users’ ability to think critically.
Our impending loss of privacy terrifies us. Most of us love technology, and yet lurking beneath our excitement is a morass of fear and uncertainty related to data breaches and unlawful surveillance. Around two-thirds of the global sample believe we are headed toward a time when it will be impossible to keep our personal data secure. How can brands deliver digital products and services that inspire not just enthusiasm but also confidence?