Ayesha Khanna has been studying the impact of technology on society and cities for many years and has learned that there are no simple answers to the question of whether technology is good for you or bad. “It’s a double-edged sword,” she says. “It’s naive to say that it’s only good and it’s equally naive and depressing to say that technology is only bad. There will still be all kinds of contradictions in the future and human life will remain pretty much the way it is right now in that respect.”
Ayesha Khanna sees several trends like the ubiquity of computing, which means there are sensors everywhere. “You can also clearly see a lot of personalization and social robotics, which makes this personalization warm and human,” she adds. “Augmented and virtual reality will conjure up situations that make life more livable but also fake. It will be a mix of pleasure but with a nagging feeling that it’s not real.”
Regarding the way we will be living, she thinks that “we are moving towards more configurable micro spaces that are self healing, self configuring and completely sensory and sensual – being almost alive houses.” Which leads her to the question: “What is the household? Is the house wherever you are? Can you personalize a house wherever you are?”
Many of Khanna’s predictions are related to human feelings connected to technology: “It’s not all about digitalization. We will have the desire for relationships but also some of these relationships will be with machines,” she believes. “As producers we need to design user experiences that give people joy. Perhaps being happier becomes cheaper as long as we accept and can live with the fact that it’s not real experiences.”
Culturally it will be fairly rapid for us to get accustomed to it: “Especially for younger people this won’t be fake, because it’s only fake if it’s contrary to something you’ve experienced before. They’ll be used to it,” she believes. “We will have a fragmented society with multigenerational interactions.” It will therefore be important how we react to the new opportunities and developments. Ayesha Khanna foresees that “successful human beings will be those that are able to take themselves out of certain cultural bubbles and really push the boundaries. The human spirit will always eventually want to break free.”
Ayesha Khanna is an entrepreneur and expert on smart cities, future skills, Fintech, and other emerging industries. She has directed the Future Cities Group at the London School of Economics, where she is currently completing her PhD on urban information infrastructures. Ayesha spent more than a decade on Wall Street advising product-innovation teams on the development of large-scale trading, risk management and data analytics systems. As the CEO and co-founder of The Keys Academy, Khanna has developed an “externships” model that lets secondary-school students apply their skills to critical twenty first century industries. Khanna is also the founder of e-learning platform Applied Skills, and 21C GIRLS.
Illustrations © Robert Samuel Hanson