No “Either Or”: The Future of Consumption is Vireal

Reality or fiction? In terms of consumption, this question will soon be irrelevant. We are in the midst of a fundamental change in which the physical components of consumption are increasingly combined with virtual ones: "Entanglement" and “Vireality.”

This text is an excerpt from the GDI study "The End of Consumption as We Know It – When data makes retail superfluous". 

The evolution leading to the end of consumption has already begun. By the end of the 21st century there will be little that resembles what we recognize today as products, stores or transactions. The transformation will be catalysed by data, artificial intelligence and IoT, transcending the “luddite” solutions of the industrial era and making them obsolete.

The material world of analog consumption will not disappear. Humans still have basic needs that are satisfied by physical goods produced and distributed through physical channels. What will change is the physical will become more closely intertwined with digital and neurological components of consumption – to the extent that new realities and new worlds will  emerge. A distinction between artificial and natural may become impossible. We will be what we do. American computer engineer Danny Hillis uses a quantum physics term to describe this development as "entanglement": a kind of twisting that goes beyond the familiar “either or.”

In other words: The binary concept of either producer or consumer, trade or industry, market or state is being challenged. The notions of being more centralized or decentralized, dictatorial or democratic are in question. But we can make an educated guess about the direction we are taking.

Initially we will be faced with a synthetic reality of interconnected products, services and infrastructures which communicate with each other on the loAT without us noticing (Calm Tech – when technology is on the periphery rather than the central focus). And it will be layered with a virtual world of consumption, where digital products configure themselves according to our requests (synthetic consumption) and the needs of the brain are met directly without the physical distraction of the body (intracorporal technology).

We are in a transition phase--technologically, economically, politically, and socially. Although nobody knows how long it will last, ultimately a new definition  of wealth may manifest: the wealth of data. To achieve this, we must learn to utilise the economic potential in the growing volume  of data. Corporate structures must learn to adapt to the digital economy  and understand old-world industrial cost structures can no longer provide sustainable revenue.