MSPs Will Help Enable The 'Virtualization Of The World,' Says Futurist

‘The winners toward the end of the next decade will be the ones who best figure out what belongs in the virtual world, what should remain in the physical world, and how you connect between them,’ says futurist Michael Rogers told attendees at NexGen 2019.


While Michael Rogers says he wasn't a fan of the title "futurist" at first, he's come to embrace the title for himself. And he recommends that MSPs start thinking of themselves as futurists, too.

"Part of your practice going forward is going to be being a futurist," Rogers said Thursday at the NexGen 2019 Conference and Expo in Anaheim, Calif., an event hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company.

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"Futurist" is a useful title because it gives permission to "think out a little bit further" than usual, he said--which is something MSPs ought to get into the habit of doing, if they aren't already.

"I think there is an interesting role for futurists and R&D in your industry," Rogers said. "Because you are building the infrastructure for the next decade. I often call it the 'virtualization of America and the world'--the fact that more and more of what we do, how we learn, how we shop, how we need our mates, is going into the cyber sphere."

While many would contend that's already happened, "my argument is that it's actually just started,” he said.

"We will be stunned 10 years from now by how much goes on in the virtual world and has been moved to the virtual world," Rogers said. "The winners toward the end of the next decade will be the ones who best figure out what belongs in the virtual world, what should remain in the physical world, and how you connect between them."

Rogers outlined several specific technologies he believes will be "very important in the virtualization of the world" down the road--even if they "may not play a big part now in the MSP world.”

One technology is smart glasses, including devices that are starting to emerge that can project a virtual screen that can be controlled by voice (or even by hand in the air). Potential uses for the glasses include aiding with repair work in the field, Rogers noted.

Another use for new display technologies is to better enable distributed workforces--with Rogers giving the example of new systems that could be described as "videoconferencing on steroids." The systems could offer a high-res, wall-sized screen that is connected to another office within an organization.

"In the demo I saw, you walked into a coffee lounge in Palo Alto and it looked like an ordinary coffee lounge with a table, chairs, coffee maker. And then there's a full-size video screen, completely covering the back wall, on which you saw identically the same coffee lounge," Rogers said. "It literally looked like one room. And that was up in Portland, Oregon. So you'd walk into Palo Alto, a bell would ring in Portland, Oregon, to indicate someone was in the coffee lounge, and your co-worker from Oregon would come out."

Research on those offices suggested that a piece of work divided between the two sites was equivalent to work occurring in the same space, Rogers said.

Allen Falcon, CEO of Westborough, Mass.-based Cumulus Global, said this example of visually connected offices resonates, because it recognizes that “the human connection is really important” in work.

“So if you're not going to go physically into the office, your work relationships still have to be there. And the visual component of communications, which is more than half of communication, has to be there as well," Falcon said. "And so really focusing on the technologies that let people use the network to work and live in the way they want, as a convenience, and as a way of maintaining the human connection--I think that's an opportunity for our industry."

Other examples of technologies that Rogers expects to be increasingly important going forward include blockchain, IoT and artificial intelligence.

AI, he noted, is already automating a wide range of white-collar jobs, including in sectors such as law. For instance, in just a few hours, eDiscovery applications are capable of going through evidence that previously would have taken months, he said.

"It is clearly the way forward for a lot of these white-collar organizations where work is being automated by AI," Rogers said.