As a futurist, I'm used to looking at the global trends, technological waves and innovative advances to come in the next five, ten and even twenty years. Here, I give you my top tech predictions for 2018, with some foresights on how they will affect you.
1. Artificial intelligence will do to white collar jobs what machines have been doing to blue collar jobs
I’ve written about artificial intelligence in previous blogs, but this trend will sharpen in 2018. Here’s just a taste of things to come: JP Morgan Chase has replaced 360,000 legal human hours with seconds of computer power with COIN (Contract Intelligence) and Allen & Overy has reduced derivatives contract drafting that used to take a three human hours to three minutes with Margin Matrix. When you pay your lawyer in 6-minute increments, which one would you prefer? In 2018, both our human brawns and our human brains are up for automation.
Check out this talk I did for KPMG's partners in Sydney, Australia on the Future of Professional Intelligence for a deep-dive on the topic.
2. Trust will be digitised and distributed
In 2018, the promise of blockchain technology will become a practical reality. Like the internet, you don’t need to understand how blockchains work to use them but their most important features are that they are secure by design and managed by a peer-to-peer network. This makes them perfect for all those things we don’t want cyber criminals getting their hands on – like financial transactions, medical records and identity information.
This technology will enable smart, self-executing contracts to digitise trust and cut out the middleman. For centuries, lawyers have profited from distrust between parties. They have been the arbiters of trust, and used the pen to get parties to agree. But now commercial transactions that are readable by machines can be executed in a self-driving fashion. For example, when X happens in an exchange Y follows automatically. This has huge implications for commerce, property transactions, mortgage settlements, and human willingness to engage in binding agreements.
Here is one of my keynote slides from Lawyers Weekly's Future Law Forum in October 2017 highlighting how trust is being digitised.
3. 2018 is 1984 – Humanoid robots will be enforcing laws
Robocop is already here and is operating on the streets in Dubai, equipped with wheels and facial recognition technology – along with an ability to work round the clock and never ask for leave. Drone surveillance in military settings is already a reality, and artificial intelligence already trumps human intelligence at facial recognition. We’ve even witnessed the rise of ‘emotionally intelligent’ robots like Robot Sophia, who was given citizenship in Saudi Arabia in 2017.
In 2018, the human drive to anthropomorphise inanimate objects will take a paradigm shift as we start interacting with technology similar to Robocop and Sophia. Increasingly, we will be provided with superior citizen services at Human Services centres around the world. Through greater use of AI, activities such as birth certificate applications, renewing a driver’s licence and accessing health and human services support – for example, government parental leave payments – will become seamless exercises.
Speaking of Robot Sophia - I had the pleasure of sharing stage with Sophia during the Knowledge Forum in Dubai in November, 2017 - a preview of things to come.
4. Digital currencies will go mainstream
If the internet was all about information, blockchain technology is all about value. While 2017 saw bitcoin hype reach unprecedented levels, and barbers handing out financial advice in a potential sign of things to come, it is true to say that digital (and cryptocurrencies) are here to stay. (While bitcoin used to be seen as the province of nerds and dealers in the dark web, it’s now drawing millions from hedge funds.)
Let us face it, money is already fully digitised, and cash is no longer king. Alternative standards like blockchain-enabled cryptocurrencies, while they are a trust leap away from centrally regulated currencies, will become a fabric of the digital world. As the interface and user experience of being able to store value on the blockchain becomes seamless, more competitors to bitcoin will pop up vying for attention, and people who missed the bitcoin bull run will seek to get in.
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