This is the most recently updated version of this post. An old version↝ of this post still lives on Rosetta Currents↝. Image by Rosetta creative team. This is part two, check out part one here.
In my previous article, we examined a world in which artificial intelligence (AI), although not yet smarter than humans, is managing search results; customers are trading privacy for deeper connectedness; and brands’ SEO rankings vary dramatically by segment. Now, let’s travel beyond the year 2100 to explore how SEO evolves.
85 Years Ahead: SEO in 2100
The turn of the next century: what an exciting time to still be alive! With all the advances in medical science, you and I may very well still be here.
Just for convenience’s sake, I’ll assume that humanity itself has survived.
The technological singularity I mentioned earlier has now happened. Nanotechnology is as prevalent in our lives as microchips were in 2015. Superintelligent AIs that we can’t begin to fathom use 3D printers to fabricate quantum servers. Google — a very different company than it was 100 years ago — uses those servers to handle our search queries.
The year 2100 is still on the low end of the 0.5-663 year scale I gave for the lifespan of SEO. I’d like to assume I’ll have retired at this point, but maybe by now I’ve digitized my brain and transferred it into a rejuvenated clone body, and I’m ready to get back to work in my favorite field.
3D printers will be able to assemble nearly anything from the molecular level up. Besides the complete destruction of the current economy, this will also make search queries with purchasing intent few and far between.
If someone wants to buy shoes, they don’t search for “buy shoes” anymore. Now they search for the best-looking 3D printer schematics to load into their home unit. And schematics are simply digital data, 1s and 0s, that can be copied and shared effortlessly.
Companies are going to try and charge for these at first, and they’ll fight tooth-and-nail much like the music industry did when Napster showed up. But eventually we will find ourselves in a post-scarcity economy, whether we like it or not.
Here’s some actionable advice: Invest in the first 3D printer schematic search engine that comes on the market — or build it yourself.
It’s nanotechnology, or the even smaller femtotechnology↝, that makes these replicators possible. And corporations can’t hate on it too much, because it also allows them to gain more information about you than anyone ever thought possible. Tiny robots, millions of times smaller than a human hair, will be in every thing you own.
My coffee machine will know what kind of beans I like, how often I use it, if I’m using it correctly, how prominently it’s placed on my counter, if I swear in front of it to indicate low satisfaction, and so much more. The smart companies will learn to include these sensors in their free product schematics, and make up for lost profits with all that information.
It doesn’t matter if the machine isn’t digital — that distinction will be extinct as nanomachines swim around matter at the atomic level, able to make even an old wrought-iron desk “smart.”
Internet of Things? That’s so last-century. Pretty soon, the Internet will be everything.
That sounds like a horrible invasion of privacy now, but when it happens slowly over a century, it will be welcomed. There will be laws and regulations, but a government can never keep pace with innovation.
Humans Won’t Go Out of Business
As an SEO marketing kinda guy, my client base is very different in the future. Sure, replicators can create standard items, but nothing can replace custom artwork, hand-crafted furniture, theatrical performances, and other expressions of creativity. Even if a robot can do it the same way, as long as there are humans, there will be a demand for custom human-made items.
These humans will be our clients. And there will be ways to certify handmade status, just like there are now.
Of course, we’ll also be working very hard to make sure that our companies’ replicator schematics rank highly on the 3D printer search engines.
One handy benefit to us marketers is that search intent will no longer have to be guessed at. Those nanites swimming through matter will also be swimming through our bodies and our brains, creating digital networks within our own bodies that we use and control.
It’s the next level up from being a cyborg. No mechanical arms (unless you want them) – but your brain now has the expanded functionality of a supersmart phone.
Since these nanites are in-sync with our digital brains — or, in fact, since the nanites are what our brains are now mostly built out of — search intent will be a part of the query itself. The computers are in us now; there’s no need for a mobile phone when our bodies contain thousands of times the processing power. Searches will come from our brains directly. And we will no longer optimize for text string searches. We will optimize for urges, for moods, for feelings.
I don’t pretend to know how exactly our thoughts will be represented in the digital realm, but I know it won’t simply be with words from our current lexicon. Whatever these feelings and emotions are that trigger Google to display in our eyelid monitors, we will optimize the Internet experience for them.
Having a desktop site is completely optional. But you have to have a site that looks good when users find it in their brain computer and overlay it against their current field of vision. Whatever this next iteration of responsive design is called – heads-up retina display design? – make sure you jump on it fast.
SEO is clearly a lot different in 2100, but without a doubt, it’s still alive. So let’s make one more jump into the future, and let’s make it a big one this time. Let’s go past that 663-year maximum lifetime I gave SEO.
685 Years Ahead: SEO in 2700
In the year 2700, SEO will finally, absolutely be dead — at least on Earth.
As we expand into the solar system and then other systems throughout the Milky Way, our colonies will not start out as advanced as we’ve become on Earth (aka Neo-Earth, aka Terra Natural Park). Whatever company has replaced Google (or whatever digital conglomerate organizational structures have replaced the notion of “companies”) will still have many uses in areas where the inhabitants are technologically behind.
If you’re still a marketer somewhere out there, you’d be optimizing a site for that region in particular, much like how Yandex’s webmaster center currently lets you manually select which area of Russia you want to rank in. The only difference? You’d be selecting for planets.
On Earth, however, SEO will be dead. If, when the year 2700 rolls around and SEO is still alive, I will personally admit my mistake — you have my word.
But in 2700, our brains and consciousnesses will have expanded so much that performing a search will be over before it’s even begun, much like the way you don’t have to really think about the solution for 2+2.
You would never have to sit down, for example, and type in “solution to Riemann zeta hypothesis” and click “search”. If you had the urge to know it, you would. Just like that.
It’s no longer the Internet — we’ve moved on to a more fundamental connectivity, something to do with quantum entanglement or positrons, that joins everyone on the planet — maybe this neo-net is called the Unisphere.
But you will never search the Unisphere for anything. You will simply know. You will be connected at your leisure, and enjoy a monumentally high standard of living provided by AIs and replicators and all the other new innovations they’ve brought on.
And SEO on Earth will be dead. Finally.
Seven hundred years ago, no one could have predicted the wonders that we have now — the wonders that enable you to read this article, and understand the concepts it contains.
Not only has the world changed a lot since then, but it’s changed faster and faster every year. We are not progressing at a steady rate. Our progress comes with accelerating returns year after year, day after day.
This means that however much we’ve changed in the last 700 years, we will change vastly more in the next 700.
SEO will always be about the user first, the search engines’ profits second, and the webmasters’ interests somewhere further below. But times change, and with time so do users and technology.
I’m not saying you should start optimizing your websites for what may happen 30 years in the future. What I am saying — the most actionable advice I have — is to keep your mind very, very open.
Don’t resist change, because the future is wild.
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