Predictions for the Next Decade

What Communication Changes Might We Expect Over the Next 10 Years?

Communicating is like quarrying. It is an ancient practice, but the technology it employs is constantly changing. Here are some predictions about communication changes we might expect over the next 10 years.

Cell phones. They will get smaller and more powerful. The next generation may look like hearing aids – very small hearing aids. Your virtual assistant will move from your pocket to your head. Did you forget something?

Siri will remember it for you. Appointment coming up, Google will interrupt your conversation to tell you, “It’s time to go. Traffic is light. You will be there in 15 minutes if you leave now.”

Attitudes about cell phones are changing, too. The generation entering the workforce in 2010 is much more familiar with the cell phone and more dependent on it, but they also are starting to see it as a burden.

Young adults use smartphones for learning and job seeking. They also are beginning to see them as leashes that keep them attached to a demanding world of peer groups, parents and employers. Don’t be surprised if a new Luddite movement starts encouraging us to discard our phones and get back to reality. Tune out. Turn off. Drop in.

Video. Chat programs like Skype will be ever-present. We have a constant need to be in touch with employees, family and friends. I predict almost every room will have a videotelephony screen.

They will look like digital picture frames and will display brilliant pictures of nature, but when people want to interface with you, the screens will instantly change into sophisticated communication tools. “Hi, can we talk for a minute,” won’t be spoken by someone at your door; it will be the head peeking through your digital window.

Videotelephony could become a standard accessory for our self-driving cars. Your screen will give you real-time lists of the cars around you. Touch one, and if the other driver’s face comes up. “Hey, good buddy, you cut me off back there.” Think of Star Trek minus the photon torpedoes.

Drones. Currently the military has operators sitting at desks in the U.S. communicating with and flying drone missions overseas. Eventually similar technology will be employed by industry.

Why shouldn’t we be able to operate heavy equipment from the comfort of an air-conditioned office? It will be safer, and we won’t need steel-toed boots, goggles and construction helmets. And what about self-driving semis? That technology is already being tested.

Some things will not change. Meaningful human communication will always need to be face to face. Job interviews will not be replaced by automated interview and placement systems. Search committees will still need to sit face to face with job candidates and ask probing behavior-based questions to determine who is best suited to become a coworker.

Sales personnel will still need to establish trust with those who buy our services and products. Technology may make it easier for us to identify potential markets and customers, but it won’t eliminate the handshake and the kind word.

Employees will always need training, reward and recognition and time off for rest and recreation. A company I worked for in the 1980s replaced the old cash registers with a computerized digital system. At first it didn’t speed things up, it slowed them down. The cashiers put up a sign, “Please be patient. New machines, same old ladies.”

The old expression, “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” still applies. Technological changes are happening at an ever-increasing pace. Things not yet imagined will change the way we live and work.

To survive and prosper in the upcoming decade we have to welcome change and embrace it, but we will also need to continue to welcome and embrace our humanity.

Thomas J. Roach Ph.D., has 30 years experience in communication as a journalist, media coordinator, communication director and consultant. He has taught at Purdue University Northwest since 1987, and is the author of “An Interviewing Rhetoric.” He can be reached at [email protected].

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