As 2010 was ushered in nobody had yet heard of a ‘tablet’, with the first iPad model not released by Apple in April of that year. Most of those enjoying a New Year trip were staying in hotels. Airbnb existed but had yet to take off and was far from having established itself as a noun – “we’ve booked a lovely looking Airbnb”.
Nobody spoke to their technology, or at least if they did a response wasn’t forthcoming. If a cab ride was needed, we’d call a cab company. And most commuters still read a newspaper or book on their way to work in the morning, rather than an app on their phone or Kindle. In 2010 we still turned on the TV in the evening, trying to remember if something good would be on. Now, thanks to on-demand streaming services like Netflix, ‘something good’, is on whenever we choose.
Ten years on and not only the economy but our daily lives and habits have changed immensely as a result of the tech revolution that has been underway between 2010 and 2020. And while most of us generally approve of much of the technology and the digital-first business models that have been introduced and evolved, there has also been a dark side to the tech revolution.
Technology has also reshaped military conflict and surveillance over the past decade. Drone warfare is now common, battlefields are now being contested by autonomous war machines and companies such as Boston Dynamics are developing robots that look as though they have leapt out of your worst nightmare.
Deep fakes, video content built by artificial intelligence and almost undistinguishable from reality, are opening a new front in ‘fake news’, which also didn’t exist in anything like its present format a decade ago and has been accused of influencing political outcomes. Throw in China’s social credits system, based on surveillance technology and the rise of facial recognition, and the sinister, or potentially sinister, side to technological leaps forward over the past 10 years can be seen clearly.
Technological Advancement Will Only Speed Up
The pace of the technological revolution will keep on accelerating. Scientists confidently state that the technological changes that will take place over the next century will be more, much more, rapid than the changes that have taken place over the past 20,000 years.
The list of tech-fuelled changes to how we live and the world around us that has been outlined here is likely to pale in comparison to the one which will be looked back on in 2030. 2019/20 is likely to strike us as a much more primitive world than 2009/10 does looking back on it from today.
Some of the tech advancements will be hugely positive. Others less so, or will depend on the point of view of those influenced by them.
Autonomous vehicles will almost certainly be a regular site on our roads, if not yet the norm. But it can be expected that the transition will be well underway towards a society in which few own their own cars. Like the difference between owning a collection of VHS cassettes, or DVDs, compared to having a Netflix subscription, driverless cars are expected to be a service, rather than ownership, business model.
Driverless cars and other passenger-carriers will also look very different to today’s equivalents. They will be built to offer ways to make use of travelling time, like moving mini-gyms, gaming rooms or a mobile bedroom we will be able to take a nap in. Some may well even be flying. The first flying taxis, based on drone-like technology, will start to operate along designated routes in cities such as Paris and Tokyo within the next couple of year.
Screens & Devices
The snowballing of the amount of screens in the world, and our individual lives, is set to be slammed into reverse over the decade ahead. Television sets could well be replaced by wallpaper or films that screen images. Even our mobile phones, screens we now look at for 3 hours a day on average, or much more if you’re a teenager, could disappear – replaced by lenses that bring information up in front of our eyes.
With more computing processes and services running from the cloud, individual devices, and screens, are likely to become less needed. We will transition from multiple screens to multi-purpose screens, that may not look like the screens of today or necessarily by physical.
Alexa, Siri and the Google Assistant have all made their debut over the past few years and asking Alexa or Siri to turn down the lights, play a song, read an audio book or give the weater forecast is becoming normal. But the AI that powers these assistants is developing quickly.
Ten years from now Alexa, Siri et al, will differentiate between different members of the family, be able to understand sarcasm and intonation and even respond with sarcasm and intonation.
Ecommerce and online groceries shopping has become common over the past decade and on-demand, no-effort commerce is now expected by consumers. But over the next ten years that can be expected to develop further. Regular groceries like milk, toilet paper and pet food is likely to just show up on our doorsteps, when retailers are informed by IoT devices that we are running low.
This expected future ecommerce development is being referred to as ‘zero-click’ shopping.
The concept of privacy and anonymity can be expected to be eroded further as cheap, high resolution cameras are placed around public spaces. Powered by AI, these inexpensive but powerful cameras will be able to recognise faces from as much as a mile away. Soon enough individual’s will be spottable from cameras placed in satellites.
On a more positive note, healthcare and medicine is expected to take its biggest leap forward since the discovery of antibiotics. AI-powered drugs discovery will be one major development. Clinical trials are, as of January 2020, starting for the first AI-designed drug, which treats OCD and took just a year to develop.
AI is also expected to massively improve the ease, cost and accuracy of diagnosis and organs for transplant will be printed in laboratories rather than patients needing to wait for a donor.
An Oxford Economics study from 2019 has forecast that automated solutions involving AI and robots will likely take over 20 million manufacturing jobs around the globe by 2030 alone. A McKinsey report in 2017 was even more apocalyptic, predicting the loss of as many as 800 million jobs globally by 2030.
And it’s not only factory line jobs that will go. Accountants will largely no longer be necessary as software takes over their jobs and the same can be said of the lawyers whose main function is to prepare relatively standard legal documents. Financial markets and even sports reporting will, to a significant extent, be taken over by AI.
But before we get too depressed about the prospect of imminent unemployment, history has taught us that when technology replaces one kind of job, the economy has a habit of throwing up new employment opportunities. Nonetheless, there could be some pain during the transition process and the kind of job titles we all have could be quite different to today’s in 10 years.
New technologies tend to throw up new problems that had never before occurred to humanity. Fake news and Russian bots influencing elections around the world is probably not a side-effect that would have occurred to many when Facebook and Twitter first launched. The technological developments of the next 10 years will throw up new, surprising problems, as well as solutions.
Not all of the technological developments expected to unfold over the next ten years will. Some will be slower than anticipated to gain traction. Others that are not even yet on the radar will spring from seemingly nowhere to have a significant influence.
But one thing is certain – technological evolution will gather pace in a way that will make last decade’s changes seem pedestrian. Try and remember this article and in 2030 think back to the outset of 2020. You’ll almost certainly be amazed by what has changed.
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