One of the biggest and potentially most exciting aspects of the new digital/virtual environments is the change in the nature of human to human and human to enterprise interaction within them. Our Code Halos will see W.B. Yeats’ old phrase “there are no strangers, only friends I haven’t met” replaced by a new one, “there are no strangers, only code that hasn’t collided with my code”. Imagine a single sign on world where my code halo goes before me as I shop for Umbrian prosciutto on Amazon , trade my portfolio with Mintuit on my iWatch, stream a movie from Netflix (a Comcast Company) from the iTable in the AUSAirways lounge in Narita for my sick kid at home in Massachusetts, where my glasses receive an EyeM that my 90 year old mother has fallen in her bathroom and my “IFTHISTHENTHAT” algorithm alerts the local paramedics in the UK, where the five minute highlight reel (with action points summarized by a bot using an unauthorized rendering of Kate Upton’s voice) of my department’s 60 minute conference call that I was unable to attend is played on the Dreamliner’s seat back Surface on the 10 hour ride home across the Pacific (batteries permitting). Our Code Halos will see us interacting with people and institutions that know us, understand us, remember us, anticipate us, and serve us in ways that only the 1% of the 1% have ever really experience before.
Code Halos, built initially in the virtual world, are spilling over into the real world at an exponential pace. Our devices (miniaturizing along some sort of Moore’s law parabola), wearables (a Nike Quantified You Dri-Fit Compression Base Layer anyone?), and the “Smart Walls” around us (replacing dumb – in form and content - paper and glue based adverts on the London Underground currently) are seeing episodic physical interaction be extended and, at times, replaced by a new style of continual virtual connectivity.
The algorithm that knows that if I like Wilco, Lowell George, Ralph Vaughn Williams and Elvis Costello I’m not only one seriously cool dude but also likely to like the so cool I’ve never heard of them DIIV and be interested in driving the new yet to roll off the production line E400 from Mercedes Benz and that my brother’s 7 year old would love an American Girl Pajama Pal which I could pick up on my business trip to Gotham next week (if of course I didn’t want it shipped overnight) is revolutionizing what we do, when we do it, how we do it, even why we do it. The “code that knows” is the catalytic convertor at the heart of the spark changing every aspect of life and work before our very eyes.
In only a few short years these algorithms will make modes that seemed ordinary and every day until recently seem as quaint and curdled as the Pavane (an Elizabethan courtly dance if you were wondering) and the (M)adman’s lunchtime cocktail; the teller at the BoA café in Whole Foods (yes, tellers will still exist as code-infused-in-person-financial-consigliores) will greet you by name (even though you’ve never met in person before) and suggest you move your recent bonus deposit from your short term low interest savings account to a longer term higher interest one that is only available to in-store Whole Food Grand Fromage patrons. The 10 minute “hi, how y’doing?” kabuki dance at the start of each and every business conversation will be the tell of a team/person operating at “non halo” speed; Microsoft’s LinkedIn functionality will have synced everyone’s profile, Klout score, and Nike Bio rating and updated every intra-caller connection, into the session’s online dashboard the second the session was set. Only the “NUDE” (Not Utilizing Digital Enhancement) will sit at the client dinner unsure of who they’re talking to and what they should talk about. [As an aside, being NUDE will in time come to be retro chic for the hipsters until they realize that its ironic joys pale when the only other nudists in the room are un-ironic D-listers].
Virtual continuous interaction will ripen and deepen in a virtuous circle of “giving and getting” in which the ratio of what code I provide about myself is positively outweighed by the value of the code I receive in return. This “Pandorization” of interaction (named in honor of the online music service Pandora) sees that the more data there is (mine individually, and everyone’s in aggregate) the more value we all receive; value in terms of the things I know I want or need and more importantly in terms of the things I didn’t know I needed or wanted but now that I’m aware of them make an awful lot of sense.
Whilst there are many for whom the idea of offering up their code halo is unsettling and paralyzing, bringing as it does both the specter of Anonymous and Big Brother (“I am not a code”), paradoxically Pandorization is enhancing our unique characteristics and their value. In the antediluvian (literally “before the data deluge”) pre-Halo days only a few intimates could have any sense of who we really were. Our banks, entertainment providers, employers, colleagues, and acquaintances could only know us in broad strokes; to my bank I was simply a 50 year old, married, and father of two living in Massachusetts; to my satellite provider I was someone with a premium access package; to my co-workers I was the disembodied face of someone living “in Tandberg”. In a world of Code Halos my bank knows (or could know) that I am a British 51 year old (who works out 6 days a week to try and maintain my sense of being 35), married (with a wife I met at Manchester University), father of two (an EPL loving son and an NBA loving daughter) physically living in Massachusetts (with little allegiance to the Bay State, some to Cape Cod, but more naturally virtually present everywhere anytime and spiritually tethered to England through the BBC, The Telegraph, and SkySports online) and service me and sell to me accordingly; “the ManUSA BofA Credit Card Mr.Pring?”, “a discount on your next OneWorld flight to England Mr.Pring” “the Celtics are holding open days for premium BofA customers next month Ben; interested?” [“We know you go by the name Ben rather than the Benjamin which is on your online profile because our search partner Google tell us that all of your friends call you Ben on emails”]. In the Code Halo world my satellite provider knows that my wife loves Homeland (“have you seen Shopgirl? It’s playing on Channel 534 tonight at 8pm), and that because it’s my wife’s birthday the rugby from New Zealand that I was planning on watching is probably not on the domestic agenda but the DVR will tape it automatically anyway for me to watch tomorrow night. Because of my employee Code Halo the marketing assistant in Hong Kong that I’ve never worked with before knows before we Skype that I like to keep meetings brief, that I hate PowerPoint, and that I’m better value early or late in the day (but not in the middle).
Pandorization reveals us in more detail and definition than ever before; our preferences, idiosyncrasies, and unarticulated likes and dislikes give us a digital fingerprint that is unlike anyone else’s. Through Pandorization “we” become more distinct; less like everyone else; more differentiated. The code that to some seems a source of existential anxiety is in reality the key to a level of personalized attention and service that used to come at an exorbitant rate. Pandorization is democratizing luxury and allowing the promise of mass customization to become real with benefits for individuals and corporations alike. Knowing this fingerprint, cracking this Code Halo, embracing the digital trace, is opening up completely new unchartered territory and is launching a new gold rush – of potentially unprecedented dimensions - in which the new gold is code.