Nine Technology Trends
Future Crunch talks cover a range of disruptive technology trends, combining theoretical insights and cutting edge thought leadership with real world examples and case studies. Each of these trends create new ways of doing business in the 21st century. Together, they suggest we are in the midst of a new industrial revolution.
digital globalisation, mobile, connectivity
More than half of the world’s population is now online, most of them via the mobile phone. This is the biggest and quickest technology uptake in human history, and has ushered in a new, digital form of globalisation that’s opened the door to developing countries, to small companies and startups, and to billions of individuals. Value is shifting from physical and social assets to digital assets, with soaring flows of data now driving more global GPD growth than the physical goods trade. “Data is the new oil” isn’t just some Silicon Valley soundbyte. It’s an economic reality. In the next decade, not only will the number of connected people rise to five billion, but we’re going to experience unimaginably faster speeds, via new technologies like 5G and satellite internet. We’re moving to a world in which every device, building and phone, is hyper-connected to us, to other devices and to the internet, leaving us all in a sea of enmeshed consequences.
technological disruption, fintech, blockchain
The power of code is that it creates a common language: it means that data on information, ideas, behaviour and even the physical world can be stored, analysed and shared on a mass scale. This is why technology, which used to be a sector on its own, is now a layer over everything. We’ve already seen how powerful the digitisation of images, text, media, voice and physical location can be - disrupting media, transport and retail industries. In the next decade, we will see similar disruptions in the banking, property, legal and insurance industries. Key to this is the development of new forms of transferring value via decentralised, cryptographically secure technologies, including blockchain. Not only do these allow for new forms of money (such as cryptocurrencies), but they pave the way for a new digital substrate for the global economy, the so-called “internet of agreements.”
virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, virtual assistants
We are in the midst of the next big evolution in computing, as devices become exponentially more powerful, and increasingly intuitive. New ways of interacting with machines, inside, outside and between ourselves, are becoming available. These include virtual reality, which enables users to immerse themselves in a digital environment; augmented reality which overlays the real world with digital information and images; and mixed reality, which is a seamless blend between the real and digital worlds. The next generation of computing will allow us to interact through glasses or a screen overlay, and speak to virtual assistants. These are not just new platforms that enable new types of capabilities, but new mechanisms for people to connect with one another. Just when you’ve got your UX practices sorted, along comes a whole new challenge...
artificial intelligence, machine learning
Artificial intelligence is the single most revolutionary technology trend of the next decade. This is the combination of self learning algorithms and computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, like visual perception, speech recognition, decision making and language translation. In no case is human intelligence mimicked; in each case, it is augmented. Far from Terminator style scenarios, AI on the horizon looks more like cloud computing: cheap, reliable, industrial-grade digital smartness running behind everything. In the same way that physical world was once electrified, soon it will be cognified. AI will become a normal part of our environment and its very ubiquity will hide it. We will be able to reach this distributed intelligence in a million ways, through any digital screen anywhere on earth. Right now, that seems like magic. Soon it will be normal. This movement from magic to banality is a feature of all technology.
robotics, autonomous vehicles, drones, employment, future of work
Improved power systems, new materials, advances in computing, manufacturing and new, better algorithms are accelerating robotics. This is making robots faster, stronger, cheaper, and more perceptive, allowing them to engage with their surrounding environments, and carry out new and increasingly complex tasks. In the same way that smartphones became widely available everyone in the world in the last decade, robotics and AI will become cheap, easily accessible and deployable for everyone in the next. We will be living in a highly automated and advanced computerised world, sharing it with smart machines that have a form of limited or governed artificial intelligence. These technologies are revolutionary because they minimise human intervention in areas we previously thought could never be automated - for example, driving a car, investing money, or teaching in classrooms. Automation minimises dangerous or boring tasks. It allows for new insights and greater capacity. It will create new jobs and give birth to entirely new fields of human endeavour. But in the process, it will disrupt old industries and create structural changes to the economy, with major implications for employment.
additive manufacturing, material sciences, nanotechnology
The digital revolution is changing the way we make things. Recent advances are starting to make additive manufacturing, of which 3D printing is just one component, a powerful competitor to conventional mass production. Easy-to-change software means advanced manufacturers can turn out one-off items with the same equipment and materials needed to make thousands. Economies of scale no longer apply, and the nature of supply chain management is fundamentally changed. This means higher productivity, lower lead times, less supply chain risk and less environmental and financial costs. Nor is the technology restricted to making things out of metal and plastic. It is also capable of extending manufacturing’s reach into matters biological, and all the way down to the microscopic and nano scales.
renewable energy, storage, electric vehicles, smart grids, decarbonisation, green buildings, sustainable agriculture, vertical farming
We are in the middle of the greatest energy transition of all time. The realities of climate change, political evolution and technological acceleration mean that a new kind of economy is coming into being way faster than anyone thought. Within a few decades, by necessity, we’ll be living in a post-carbon future. The high carbon economy of coal, oil, cars, cows and logging will stagger on a little longer, but its day are numbered. Arriving in its place, the zero carbon economy of solar and wind energy; dense green building in low-car cities; sustainable infrastructure; electric autonomous vehicles; clean technologies and digital efficiency breakthroughs; on-demand shared goods and low-carbon lifestyles; sustainable farming and forestry. This transformation has major implications not only for the future of business, but for humanity as a whole.
biotechnology, genetics, CRISPR, personalised medicine, brain machine interfacing, life extension
A transformation of healthcare is underway. We are moving from a science of treating disease to one of promoting health. The age of personalised medicine is arriving, thanks to incredible technological advances that have allowed us to decode the human genome, cut and paste our own DNA, and start reverse engineering the human brain. Our ability to manipulate the code of life is upending previously age old ideas around what it means to be human, and a new range of external and implantable brain machine interfacing devices are giving rise to new forms of biological and chemical enhancement that will greatly enhance people’s intellectual and physical capabilities. As the brain and body will become increasingly blended with digital and physical technology, they will create an augmented human society.
future of work, gig economy, sharing economy, technological unemployment, basic income, agile product development, team of teams
In a world where all work is becoming digital, where automation is chipping away at routine tasks, and where technological innovation is disrupting business models, a new kind of organisational model is experiencing success. Smaller, more mobile, modular teams prioritise adaptation over efficiency, and diversity over groupthink. Skills such as communication, collaboration and creativity provide more effective pathways to success. Effective 21st century organisations have more highly developed research and development arms, are obsessed with user experience and customer satisfaction, and and focus on fostering productive internal cultures. They create iteratively better projects, using agile and lean methodologies. They have incentive systems for employees to create the best products. Perhaps most importantly, today’s most successful firms understand that counter-intuitively, in a world where technology is a layer over everything, the most important skills are the human ones, allowing their people to work together. And in the next economy, collaboration trumps genius every time.