Renowned US futurist Amy Webb, author and founder of the Future Today Institute, recently revealed more than 700 tech trends that are going to affect our lives. Her annual Tech Trends Report has been leading the way since 2007, and we have listed her key findings for you. Spoiler alert: AI is going to turn our world pretty much upside down.
The Tech Trends Report consists of no less than 14 sub-reports and in them, Webb really covers everything from computers, news and information to climate, energy, financial services, healthcare and medicine, plus specific trends such as the metaverse and, of course, AI. Together, they account for more than 700 trends including strategic advice for businesses. The most popular trend at the moment is undoubtedly artificial intelligence (AI). According to Webb, this technology is accelerating progress in all sectors and is driving a business evolution in companies, governments and society as a whole. Let’s dive in!
Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute
End of the graphical interface?
Webb doesn’t mince words: AI is radically changing our lives. She argues that the ‘text-to-everything’ era has begun and that natural language will replace the graphical user interface as the main way to communicate with computers. The 1920s will therefore go down in history as the period when generative AI became popular at record speed. And in which AI first proved capable of seeing, hearing and understanding the world, and could talk to us.
From explosion to consolidation
AI technology is going to support us in all sorts of areas in our work and daily lives, according to Webb. Smart assistants are rapidly becoming the standard in every app and suited to every possible application or industry. The market for AI tools will continue to explode courtesy of countless startups and AI-first companies. That explosion of companies and tools will lead to consolidation as early as 2023, according to Webb, as the big tech companies vie for market dominance. Microsoft is betting heavily on AI by integrating ChatGPT across its product line, Alphabet is making its own AI chatbot Bard part of several products, including the Google search engine. And then there are major players like Nvidia, IBM and Tesla, all developing their own pioneering AI technology.
Pause button for ‘AI experiments’
Yet a warning is also needed. According to Webb, we are ill-prepared for the rapid development of AI. Policymakers are behind the times and tech companies are becoming the gatekeepers of AI systems and all the data that goes into them as a result. And that poses significant risks, especially considering that Microsoft recently fired its ethical AI team. Furthermore, generative AI tools still regularly make mistakes and sometimes show discrimination and bias. Webb finds it worrying that despite all this, we are becoming increasingly dependent on AI. In this light, we should also see the recent petition to temporarily pause these ‘large-scale AI experiments’. This initiative is supported by a large number of tech-prominent people, including Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak.
New digital divide
Another danger is that the rapid rise of AI technology may create a new digital divide. For those who are not adept at using AI tools or even refuse to use them risk missing out on the AI revolution.
To companies, Webb advises focusing sharply on emerging trends to stay ahead of the competition. Look at which developments are going to have the biggest potential impact for your industry and act on them. Organisational leaders must anticipate rapid change, develop forward-looking visions and adapt quickly to changed circumstances. According to Webb, this requires a proactive mindset, shaping change rather than just reacting to it.
Ethics and responsible tech
Finally, we have quite a few ethical questions to answer about AI in the near future. For as AI becomes increasingly sophisticated and more widely woven into our society, it raises questions about issues such as privacy, bias (bias), accountability and transparency. Italy has even banned ChatGPT because OpenAI, the company behind the chatbot, does not comply with rules on the collection of personal data.
Webb urges technology companies to prioritise these kinds of ethical considerations during technology development to promote trust among customers and stakeholders.
One thing is certain: AI is becoming an integral part of our lives and is going to transform many industries and professions. It is up to us as a society to harness the potential of this breakthrough technology while addressing its negative aspects and challenges.
Download the full Tech Trends Report here.