A Phygital future: Amalgamation of physical and digital experiences.
Updated: May 11
A few years back, I opted for a break to go to Amsterdam. After landing at Schipol airport, I took an Uber and left for my Airbnb near the Prinsengracht area. I checked in, freshened up, put my phone on the charger, and started looking at the Airbnb experiences around my stay in the city. I booked a music concert on a boat for the night and a pottery class the next day before heading out to the city on a bike rented from an app. All this without uttering a single word while receiving various OTPs for the services ensuring complete digital privacy, and this was my Phygital experience. But what is Phygital?
"Phygital" is a term that combines the words "physical" and "digital" to describe a concept or experience that blends elements from both the physical and digital worlds. It represents the integration of digital technologies into our everyday lives and the seamless interaction between our online and offline activities. In a Phygital experience, digital tools and platforms are used to enhance, augment, or facilitate physical experiences, making them more convenient, efficient, or engaging.
Shared platforms are not new. They have always existed since humans started differing from their ancestors. Shared food for the tribe, shared care of newborns, shared resources for protection, and so on. What's new is that now we are using a mediator to connect us to other individuals who are interested in sharing the resources. And that mediator is our Digital Profile!
The three main pillars of a shared economy are affordability, accessibility, and convenience. Each global digital update unlocks new horizons to boost these pillars for a Phygital future which we have already witnessed in our lifetime at an unprecedented pace. The advent of sharing ecosystems in the digital age took off with the success of platforms like Uber and Airbnb. There is no doubt that we are benefiting from the sharing economy both as a consumer and a provider but are also exploring new radical ways to completely adapt to a highly secure digital profile. While shared mobility and shared living are the poster people, the world is quickly moving or rather has already moved towards other sectors like shared food, shared finances, shared healthcare, and even shared jobs! Apps like Olio help you to connect with your neighbors so that surplus food and other household items can be shared and not thrown away. Best part? Everything on Olio is available or free!
Technology and digital infrastructure have helped the digital economy get to where it is today, and it will only move forward as we become more connected. Some scientists and philosophers have long since advocated the theory of a collective conscience or a social brain, which evolves as more and more individuals are connected, and this directly results in the disruptive social innovations we witness. Since the digital age, these disruptions have become far more frequent as more and more individual brains are logged on to power the social brain or the 'super brain.' And the super brain is thus directly responsible for the collective service of connected individual brains. From the dawn of the digital age when Sir Timothy John Berners Lee opened a gateway for the world, we are gradually moving towards a Phygital society. Each passing year redistributes the percentage of our life span spent on the physical and the digital.
Digital life is certainly more exciting and adventurous than real life today for most of us. Take a look at the photos we upload, the experiences we share, and the filters we use. We rarely care about how we look in real life until and unless that look has become a part of our virtual life. It's not only about looks but events, behavior, achievements, and, most of all, happiness as well. Our digital credentials are as important, if not more, than our actual real-life portfolios. We are judged, rated, valued, denied, and provided the basis of our social credentials, which are boosted and amplified by social media. A recent addition to our digital vocabulary is 'Snapchat Dysmorphia,' a phenomenon where hordes of teens visit plastic surgeons to make them look exactly how they look in their Snapchat selfies. While in the real world, we are beginning to explore the boons of a shared economy, the digital world still values individualism and the importance of online reputation!
Humans have always had a tough time with the word 'Balance.' The cost of convenience and luxury is much more than the price we get for. With the kind of population and finite resources we have, it is paramount to ensure that the sharing economy gains a faster momentum to serve the maximum. But, we have to ensure that it happens in a way where we limit the digital proxies of our virtual selves to communicate with each other. It will be interesting to see in the coming years if we use this superpower to create windows of opportunity or a Black Mirror!