A journey inside the mind of futurist Thomas Frey

By: Thomas Frey Monday December 2, 2019 0 comments Tags: Thomas Frey

By Thomas Frey

Senior Futurist

The Davinci Institute 

For me, every day is a remarkable new adventure waiting to reveal itself.

Whenever possible, I try to let my curiosity kick in. Will people in the future be doing the same things I’m doing today? If so, what things will change and what will remain the same?

If I ask the same question seven days in a row, I’ll invariably be taken down seven different paths.Thomas_Frey_blog_photoUSE 

For me, making the transition from sleeping to mindful-awareness is a blurry one. Dreams often feel more real than my reality, and the foggy moments where I drift in and out of conscious awareness, are often the most productive times of the day. 

I’ve grown to detest alarm clocks because they have a way of depriving me of those dangling gems filled with ideas, patiently waiting for me to harvest their treasures. In much the same way urgent deadlines, stressful projects, and demanding timeframes tend to disrupt my state of flow, any artificial form of disruption like alarm clocks is a sure fired IQ-dropper!

Even before I get out of bed, my curious nature starts to take hold and questions will begin to form. “Will people in the future still sleep on beds?” 

As soon as one question takes shape, a new one is already rising from the murky ashes. So what kind of technology will replace beds?

  • How will we define our perfect sleep experience in the future?
  • Will we float in the air?
  • Will future people still need to sleep?
  • Will someone invent instant sleep?

After pausing to consider the sleep issue, a few more questions begin to crystalize:

  • Will we someday have our own hyper-individualized music playing in our heads, the right music, at the right time, at the right volume, every minute of every day, to enhance our state of mind?
  • But if we start surrounding ourselves with this kind of perfection, won’t we start expecting life to be perfect, how will we deal with disasters and identify opportunities?
  • If we strive for a life without stress, how will we cope with stress when it eventually happens, and yes, it will always happen?
  • Squirrel! Did I just hear a ding coming from my squirrel inbox?

Every once in a while I get stuck in a contemplative mode and stall-out with a moment of introspection:

  • Why am I, me, and why am I here at this moment in time?
  • Do I have a greater purpose than to ask if I have a greater purpose?
  • Why does God need humans?
  • A description is not an explanation, so why do we keep missing the “why?”

Some questions were never meant to be answered. As I mentally peer into the abyss, more questions start to percolate.  I’m sensing a pensive inquisition coming so I head to the shower:

  • Is there a faster way to get ready in the morning?
  • How much time would I save if I invented the “instant shower of the future?” There simply has to be a more automated shower coming in the future? Maybe a “human car wash” device that soaps, lathers, scrubs, shakes, and dries all in under 60 seconds.
  • Will it be possible to have swarmbots clean me in the future?
  • How many swarmbots are in the ideal swarm?

Finding Focus

Wow, suddenly the whole swarmbot thing got stuck in my head. I start imagining a swarm of 10,000 tiny flying bots that digs under my covers and root me out of bed, and flying me into the shower:

  • Since swarmbots will be able to dial-in the perfect spray and water temperature, how long before I can finish my “future shower” in less than a minute? What if I just want to be entertained with my steamy moments in the shower?
  • Standing in front of my mirror, the swarm will dry me off, fix my hair, shave me, and then assemble themselves as my clothing.
  • They’ll scan my mood sensors and instantly know what color and fashion matches my mood each day.
  • How much will a swarm like this cost, and how will I go about programming it to mesh with my thinking

Now is not the time for answers, I’m in the midst of a rapid-fire question-binge. Swarmbots are both creepy and fascinating at the same time, and I needed to stay on this line of questioning:

  • Are we going to have swarmbot dealerships in the future?
  • How will we rate the quality, functionality, and usefulness of a swarm?
  • Will we have the ability to talk back and forth to our swarms, or will it be a mind control thing?
  • Will each swarm have a “queenbot” that’s in charge of the others?

I think a queenbot just flew into my brain as each new question was expressing itself in a buzzy form of swarm-play. I was imagining a queenbot dressed in royal clothing issuing buzzy commands to the other swarming bots.

  • How many moving parts will an individual swarmbot have?
  • Will the swarmbots of 2080 be dramatically better than the swarmbots of 2050? How will they change over time?
  • Suddenly I began to imagine what it’d be like going to a swarm dealership in 2050 and having a slick-talking salesman pulling up 3D projections of tiny bots and explaining the value of the 25,000 year batteries, shell-morphing surface technology to stop bullets and lasers, and health-fixing processes designed to fly internally on the host and extract bad cells and viruses before they take root.
  • How long before my swarm will be able to fly me to where I want to go, like superman, whisking me away in a spectacular fashion?

Digging Deeper

Closing my eyes, I tried to dig deeper. I felt an overwhelming need to ‘become one with the swarm. I started to think through some of the technical specs, who would develop the operating system, and the overarching business model. Would I own them, rent them, or just summon them when I needed them?

  • How do I communicate with my swarm? Do I talk to it, gesture, point, wave, whisper, snap my fingers, or do they just know what I’m thinking? Mind controlled swarms would be sooo cool!
  • Can I use my swarm to help someone who is injured along the road?
  • Does my swarm have surge capability meaning that the number of bots in the swarm would multiply if needed?
  • Would my swarm have the ability to “borrow” from nearby swarms in an emergency?

It occurred to me that these swarms would become some sort of super-extension of our body, our desires, and our personality. The same swarm used to help someone who was injured could also be used to bully, intimidate, steal, or hurt someone else.

  • Will swarms be preprogrammed to shield our privacy, our patterns, our frailties, and our most intimate moments?
  • If I see a friend getting bullied by someone else’s swarm, can I use my swarm to intervene?
  • Will we have teenagers forming gangs with their swarms, using them to protect their turf and swarmbot takedowns?
  • Can a silent “midnight swarm” be used to hurt, harm, or steal from someone else?

Most swarm research will likely be funded by the military. Since swarmbots do pose an obvious risk to national security, research dollars in this area will likely explode over the next decade.

  • How long before we see our first soldier swarms?
  • Will we also see sniper swarms, assassin swarms, decoy swarms, and bomb-dropping swarms?
  • Will defensive swarms have the ability to EMP-blast other swarms out of the air?
  • How long before we see countries signing ‘swarm disarmament treaties?’

Suddenly I had a vision that the robots we had imagined for our future will instead be swarms. Our thinking about delivery bots will likely be replaced by delivery swarms.

  • Will swarms replace smartphones?
  • Will swarms be able to talk to each other? Can one swarm “jam” the operation of another swarm?
  • How fast can swarms fly? I’m thinking they may be here one moment and gone the next.
  • How young can a child be before he or she owns, uses, and is protected by their own personal swarm?

Final Thoughts

I often get asked how I think about the future, and what kinds of tools I use to bridge the gap between today and tomorrow. What I’ve described is one of many.

This “stream of consciousness approach” works fine for me but may not lend itself well to those who struggle with letting their imaginations loose.

For this reason I’ve developed an interactive strategy discussion process specifically designed to work with executive teams, board of directors, governmental groups, and a variety of other teams to help them work through everything from next-gen planning sessions to strategy discussions that may decide the fate of their industry.

If this is of interest to you, please click here, fill out the form and let’s schedule a time to talk. I’d love to hear more about what you’re working on.

Thomas Frey

About the Author: Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is a senior futurist and founder of The DaVinci Institute, a nonprofit think tank in Westminster. He is a well-known speaker on a variety of unique and thought-provoking topics and editor of The Futurist Magazine and blogger for FuturistSpeaker.com.