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The Second Machine Age

By Michael Castelluccio
January 2, 2016
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01_2016_techforum

In September 2015, the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software & Society forecasted 21 radical changes brought about by software that it said would “have far-reaching impacts on human health, the environment, global commerce and international relations.” The Council presented these changes in a report titled “Deep Shift: Technology Tipping Points and Societal Impact.”

 

The Council surveyed more than 800 executives and experts from the information and communications technology sector, asking them to estimate when 21 particular “tipping points” would be reached and the deep shifts would enter mainstream society. The respondents were given date ranges from “it has already happened” to “20+ years,” with an opt-out choice labeled “never” also available.

 

From six generalized areas, 21 tipping points were fixed to timelines, and the respondents were to estimate when these dramatic shifts would happen. Here are their informed estimates.

 

Implantable Technologies. The tipping point will be the first implantable mobile phone to be made commercially available. The expected date, according to 82% of the respondents, is 2023. They cited Intel’s prediction that there will be “practical computer-brain interfaces” by 2020 and the current research by the BrainGate team at Brown University.

 

Our Digital Presence. By 2023, 80% of people will have a digital presence on the Internet, with an accompanying increase in transparency, information exchange, and privacy problems, according to 84% of respondents.

 

Vision as the New Interface. 86% of those questioned believe 10% of reading glasses will have a direct connection to the Internet by 2023—convenient, but quite a distraction.

 

Wearable Internet. Also connected to the Internet, by 2022, will be clothing worn by 10% of the public, according to 91% of those asked.

 

Ubiquitous Computing. By the year 2024, almost everyone (90%) in the world will have regular access to the Internet, according to 79% of respondents.

 

A Supercomputer in Your Pocket. If you’re frustrated by the limitations of your mobile devices, be patient, because by 2023 the experts estimate 90% of the population will have smartphones that will be “literal supercomputers.”

 

Storage for All. On a closer horizon, 91% of the respondents posted a 2018 date for the arrival of “unlimited and free (advertising-supported) storage for 90% of people.”

 

The Internet of and for Things. According to 89% of respondents, there will be 1 trillion sensors connected to the planet’s network by 2022.

 

The Connected Home. Further, 70% foresee that more than 50% of Internet traffic delivered to homes in 2024 will be to appliances and devices rather than for communication or entertainment.

 

Smart Cities. 64% of respondents expect the arrival of the “first city with more than 50,000 inhabitants and no traffic lights” by 2026.

 

Big Data for Decisions. 83% believe we will see “the first government to replace its census with big-data sources” by 2023.

 

Driverless Cars. 79% think the number of driverless cars will total 10% of cars on U.S. roads by 2026.

 

Artificial Intelligence and Decision Making. Almost half (45%) expect to see “the first Artificial Intelligence (AI) machine on a corporate board of directors” by 2026.

 

AI and White-Collar Jobs. 75% expect that 30% of all audits in 2025 will be performed by AI.

 

Robotics and Services. By 2021, there’ll be the first robotic pharmacist in the U.S., according to 86% of respondents.

 

Bitcoin and the Blockchain. A majority (58%) think that by 2027 “10% of global gross domestic product (GDP) [will] be stored on blockchain technology.” See www.blockchaintechnologies.com for basic information on these distributed ledgers.

 

The Sharing Economy. 67% expect that the tipping point for a new global economic movement will be seen by 2025 with more trips or journeys taken via car sharing than in private cars.

 

Governments and the Blockchain. 73% think that we will see “tax collected for the first time by a government via a blockchain” in 2023.

 

3D Printing and Manufacturing. 84% expect that we’ll produce the first 3D-printed car in production in 2022, 76% anticipate that this sector will produce the first transplant of a 3D-printed liver by 2024, and 81% estimate that 5% of consumer products in 2025 will be printed in 3D.

 

Those are the predictions in the “Deep Shift” report. There are lists of positive and negative impacts for each tipping point, and much more information in the complete report. You can get a PDF copy online at http://bit.ly/1NRuvSI.

 

Michael Castelluccio has been the Technology Editor for Strategic Finance for 21 years. His SF TECHNOTES blog is in its 19th year. You can contact Mike at mcastelluccio@imanet.org.


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