PDV-91: Final Project – How to Think Like a Futurist

Wendell Baker
Final Project: PDV-91 – How to Think Like a Futurist
Instructor: Jane McGonigal

WHEN: 2028
WHAT: The future of advertising
WHY: Tracking (per Kelly)

Imagine a World Where.… every activity is potentially recordable, traceable, archivable, and thus monetizable. But technology is deterministic and inevitible: what can be done, will be done. It must be done unless it is uneconomic. Some boosterist once opined “data is the new oil.” Of course, this is unfounded because data is made from oil, and more. Data is made from doing things, better data than merely reading-and-clicking-and-reading web pages. Data comes from observing the world. But what comes of the exuberance for the concept is fine. Data creates knowledge to direct the world. Here we are upon the 2K‑twenties where it is better, faster, safer, simpler to record first then analyze-and-correct later. We have a national-scale billing and recording infrastructure for every phone call, every SMS message, every television show. They even record ambient street chatter, and in-car conversations: everywhere and always. Like AT&T Project Greenstar, but with positive cash flow; like Verizon UIDH, but available for every channel always and everywhere. With such abundant recorded supply, the trade has set about to optimize, streamline and ease the burdens of living, but most of all to make more money.

No one asked, but fifty years on, computing became pervasive and wholly invisible. It is “ho hum.” Such befell elevators, frozen food, television, automatic transmissions, and multi-stream recycling programs. Nobody is gushing “gee-whiz! it’s just phenomenal!” about the mobile, the online, those “digital natives,” or “the cyber,” not any more. By “computing” one comprehends the mind-numbing acts of bookkeeping, recordation and reconciliation. Nobody balances a Check21 book, a brokerage statement, an invoice-to-payment statement, and hasn’t for a generation. KYC & AML, they know who you are. One also comprehends computing in the little acts of operability and control: braking, doors, faucets, toilets flushing, lights, checkout, payment, signout, signin. But also in enforcement and supervision. There is permissioned Policy Control and Charging (PCC) layered on everything: when, where, how, who, limits and prices. Computing is safety, performance, animation, entertainment and fun. Unless in the business itself, most people comprehend the computing as nifty, fun and helpful.

The Emerging Adults have, well, emerged. Millenialism doesn’t sound forward-looking or millenarian at all. These people work stable jobs, lease the cars, buy the health insurance, swap the credit cards, hold the union cards, grind on 30-year full-amortization mortgages. They are the family plan; everyone’s gear hangs by that bill. They plan vacations around the kids, they have calendar-scheduled “date nite.” They live-apart-together. Their work moves downSandyet, to the youngs, and overseas all the time, yet they’ve figured it out. They have become The Organization’s franchise player. It’s grey flannel, but it’s their flannel, reminding them fondly of what was: hipster, cargo pockets, normcore, mass indie. It is still no less a suit. They are at peace with it, it’s what they wanted all along. They are masters at the constancy of change. The Xers have received the secret knowledge of generational wisdom as a Sandwich Generation always does; they see both sides now: what was, what will be. They know don’t they know life at all; they comprehend actuarial science, if only by poetry as time compounded. They have less time now but they too pretend they are permanently and ever thus. Many still work for The Man, because they must but also many have become The Man, even if in little ways. They are owed, they remember somewhat how it was to owe. The Perennials are now “Of a Certain Age.” Graceful and grand are some, but not all, wherein “Age is only a Number.”


Lee is headed into the coffee shop. It’s raining, which is new. Apparently it always rains here. Lots of college types around here too. The phone buzzed a bit. It had made contact with the kiosk. Looking around, there was the linkup. All there was to do was accept the script-chit-thingy and payment was done. It also qualified one into the Frequent Coffee, College Crew segment. Swirl Networks, right there on the sticker. He knew what he was doing; given notice, he had given consent. He pulled in the other notification and donated to the homeless person sitting in the window. There was a name on the license but he didn’t read it. Too much. Everything nowadays is noticed, choiced and consented. It never ended. He had the Consent Fatigue. He moved on, other things to do.


It is the first week in January, 2029. The professional football season is finishing up. Sandy is back in the office after taking the New Year’s holiday off. Good fun, good food, good rest. Now back to work. She does audience management for the big ad exchanges. She thinks this is vaguely like the bee keeping that her great uncle used to do. No outdoors though. There’s some work to it, but as long as you keep ahead of it, the hive will always be producing. Sandy does audience shaping and amplification with a bit of open-market trading on the side. They have contracts and terms on the DataX blockchain.

Across the Fall, since August 2028, they had set up the rigging to record the attendees in the thirty one NFL stadiums. She’s going to trade on that through the Superbowl in February. Her first tranche was announced on the IAB’s Audience Exchange Protocol in December. She’s going to amplify and shape these audiences to get more out of them. She’ll have to buy some other audiences and blend them.

It’s never ceased to amaze Sandy: who wants this stuff? There is some movie being scheduled for summer about space and robots where the distributors want young families with preteens. Sandy thought it would be smarter to hunt those people by looking for them in malls and schools. Preteens have to be in school, surely. But the customer is always paying, if not always right. There’s another RFP on her desk for college-bound students in the Northeast. She’s going to have to use amplification to get the kind of reach they want. The modeled audiences are not as easy to sell, but they can do wonders for a vaguely defined campaign.


  • Swirl Networks is a real company on a business plan that is mostly as shown. They are used here as example of the genre. There are several others in this genre.
  • Consent Fatigue is a real concern, in and around the GDPR and ePR & ePD laws.
  • Location ranging for retail is in active development now.
  • Credentialing for panhandling is a real proposal with serious academic study behind it.
  • The Bluetooth-linkup kiosk is in product development now. There are lots of hurdles to overcome to make them commercially meaningful. Today, they are science projects.
  • At Yahoo, I developed attendance recording at large venues using adtech mechanisms. An early market trial was NFL stadiums in 2015. BrightRoll Exchange, Oath Ad Systems. Others have developed similar product offerings as well. Sports venues is in GA in 2017.
  • Audience Exchange Protocol is (was) a real proposal. It is currently moribund.
  • DataX is a live product offering, but does not today incorporate a blockchain.

See the References, presented separately.

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