November @ 2010 @ Weiner Edrich Brown

Future of Aerospace

In the November issue of Professional Pilot Magazine, I wrote an op/ed on what I see as one potential future for the aerospace industry:

The movement of people and goods is increasingly showing the impacts of technological developments.  At a time when the costs associated with travel, transportation and shipping will increasingly matter to the bottom line, it will be imperative to rethink the way in which we view transportation in the coming years.  Some factors – energy concerns, environmental issues, terrorism and crime, etc. – are significantly affecting all aspects of travel and transportation. Other changes are incremental; some are revolutionary, in some ways bringing to reality what were formerly the fantasies of science fiction writers.  In the face of concerns about the environment and negative impacts of travel, the Internet (and virtual reality) will significantly reinvent the way in which we traditionally viewed transportation, and more specifically, aviation.

In our shop, we define virtual reality as tricking the brain into being somewhere else, doing something else, in real time.  By 2011, four out of every five people who use the Internet will actively participate in some sort of virtual environment.  This means that 1.6 billion out of a total 2 billion Internet users will have found new lives online. The virtual economy is growing at an exponential rate, and environments such as Second Life have morphed from a virtual playground into a force for change in the real world. As virtual objects and services gain real world value, a flourishing internal economy has emerged.  And today’s virtual worlds are primitive compared to what they will evolve into in the next few decades, as virtual reality comes closer to “real” reality.  As virtual travel becomes billed more and more as an environmentally-friendly alternative to real world travel, companies in the aviation industry may become more involved in this space by setting up profitable businesses there, information centers, experiential learning centers, etc.  It will also mitigate the need for excess baggage, passports and costly flights!

Airlines could use virtual environments to prototype new planes, terminals or airport lounges, thereby allowing consumers to test-drive features in virtual space before they are introduced in the real world. At a time when financial difficulties and ecological worries may limit actual tourism, a cheaper climate-stable virtual world can enable the aviation industry to navigate the future effectively.

The Emergence of a Global “She-conomy”

The emergence of a global “She-conomy” will have a major impact on everything from education to marketing and branding to fertility levels. There are already many more women than men enrolled in and graduating from universities. Women have just overtaken men in the U.S. as the majority in the workforce. Women increasingly serve as household breadwinners and white-collar executives – and they are widely considered the most powerful and growing demographic with respect to global consumer power. Many indicators point toward women comprising a greater percentage of white-collar professional positions going forward, while men who have been displaced will need to find alternatives – perhaps through vocational training or entering trade professions.

In the “she-conomies” that are emerging, communication and leadership styles that resonate with, inspire and include women will also be in greater demand.

Here are some noteworthy statistics:

  • Women account for more than half of college students and half the work force, which has delayed motherhood and marriage. For the first time, a majority of mothers, 54 percent, have a college education, up from 41 percent in 1990.
  • Women have suffered less than men in this recession. They were more likely to be in health care and other sectors/jobs that were not hit as hard as construction and manufacturing. They are also increasingly likely to have the education required. One in five men 25 to 54 is not working. The jobs that many of these men once had will not return. Institutional demand for workers with limited education is waning.
  • Globally, women total $13 trillion in yearly earnings and could reach $18 trillion in the next five years, representing a growth market twice as big as China and India combined.  But many women still feel underestimated and undervalued in the workplace, and few companies have responded to their need for time-saving solutions. While more mothers are working, more have considerable guilt about leaving their children at home. Thirty-four percent of mothers with kids under the age of 18 opt out of the workforce altogether, thereby depriving the workforce of a vital source of talent.
  • Japan is suffering from a productivity problem because they are squandering one of the world’s best educated labor forces on mundane jobs that do little to make the economy grow. Japan’s ability to emerge from the recession will depend partly on its ability to make its service sector – which makes up 70% of Japan’s economy – more productive. Evidence of low productivity in the service sector is everywhere. Retailers employ twice the average number of workers as their peers in other countries. Women are central to this issue because they are placed in menial jobs, and their talents and skills are wasted.
  • 1 billion additional middle class women expected to enter the global economy over the next decade. If China and India each represent 1 billion emerging participants in the global marketplace, then this “third billion” is made up of women, in both developing and industrialized nations, whose economic lives have previously been stunted, under-leveraged, or suppressed.
  • We are also learning more about the impact of testosterone levels in the workplace. We have long known the link between males and testosterone, but we are now learning more about how it applies to women. However, we have yet to discover the relationship between high testosterone women and productivity.

‘Hacking’ Memories & Manipulating Behaviors

In our shop, rather than always dismissing science-”fiction” as just that — fiction, we look at how it may be informed by current technology that can profoundly impact the future. Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek was always to introduce both sociopolitical themes that were metaphors for current reality and technologies that represented a feasible vision of tomorrow based on the trajectory of modern innovation.

We’ve seen many popular contemporary films like ‘Terminator 2,’ ‘Minority Report’ and ‘Surrogates’ showcase technologies that seem radical at the time of release, but that are already becoming feasible. Along the same lines, techniques related to those used to manipulate dreams in the recent film ‘Inception’ may be coming to a social networking site near you soon…in the form of subconscious product preference manipulation.

Using a strategy of visual trickery and psychological manipulation, consumer products companies may soon begin to carefully insert product placement into people’s personal pictures stored on social networking sites like Facebook. Because of the complex interrelationship between pictures and memories, the photo alteration may effectively place advertisements into people’s subconscious, waking minds. By taking advantage of implanted memories, product placement in photos on social networking sites could profoundly affect brand loyalty. Experiments have already proven that targeted false memories can alter shopping patterns.

This has the potential to become a very effective advertising strategy for consumer products companies — and thus a very attractive revenue stream for social media platforms that serve as the gatekeepers. However, as with any emerging technology/strategy like this — we have to be mindful of potential obstacles, including the myriad ethical considerations that are sure to arise. Consider the following scenario: Since both the user and their contacts view their social networking photos, altered photos could, in fact, manipulate the memory of all viewers — with or without their consent.

At this point, no company has implemented this type of social networking-based strategy for profit. However, once this process mainstreams, it could spread beyond advertising applications, and into many other areas. What will people think about this? Does it represent exciting possibilities? Will knowledge of these processes scare consumers away from certain social media outlets and brands, or will ambivalence take hold? Regardless of the the general public’s perception, this is an area that companies will undoubtedly seek to monetize, and where serious dollars likely will be made in coming years.

Cashless Utopia

Last night, Jared and I (Erica) had the pleasure of attending PayPal’s Cashless Utopia Event at the Chelsea Art Center.  PayPal’s aim is to usher us in to this utopia by establishing itself as the standard mechanism by which we pay for everything – online, on mobile devices, and even in the physical world. For PayPal, the difference between online and offline, in many ways, is starting to disappear.  PayPal’s apps for Apple’s mobile devices and for Android allow users to find merchants that accept PayPal, and then pay for their purchases electronically.

At this great event, we were able to tour PayPal’s 7 “passport destinations.”  Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Mobile: PayPal’s Bump technology enables iPhone users to bump their phones together to exchange cash.  iConcessionStand is a new app that lets you order food and beverages from concession vendors, such as those found at a sports stadium, and pay using PayPal.
  • Student Account:  This allows teens to shop in stores and online with PayPal, while their parents can monitor all account activity and transfer money to them.
  • Travel: Bill Me Later is a convenient and secure payment method which allows users to defer payment for your purchases for up to 6 months.  The Mail A Postcard app allows you to turn a picture into a real postcard.  The cost of the postcard and the stamp is deducted automatically from your PayPal account.
  • Home & Lifestyle: PayPal has teamed up with P&G to provide a way to search for great deals online and shop on your mobile using PayPal.

Some important charities were also represented: Save the Children, Donors Choose and the ASPCA.

I encourage everyone to check out PayPal’s blog to learn more about their cool initiatives.