The 2010s saw swift and numerous changes in technology. At times, it was relentless. As we enter the 2020s, we have found ourselves wading through a digital landscape full of technology — some near-obsolete, some powerful. Can we ever get enough? Do we really need this level of indulgence in technology? While artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing, etc., are very much present in the technology landscape, as of now they are by no means ubiquitous or mainstream. It’s critical that these technologies, along with others such as 5G and more, are fully realized. It’s crucial that they become mainstream. In fact, the sooner the better. I believe the first half of the 2020s will be spent doing just that — further improving these technologies to become kink-free, beneficial — even benevolent. Today’s throw-away attitude is not just present in our littered streets and oceans. It’s also showing up in tech-led business. Our fast-grab attempts to reach digital nirvana have left us missing the point: people. As we exit the 2010s and get into the 2020s, we will hang on to the last-hurrah belief that more is better in technology. I think we will move past the tech tipping point and experience a technology overdose in the first half of the 2020s. But the second half will be about people and how each of us can (and should) benefit from this slew of tech before we get ready again for the 2030s.
We can’t predict exactly what is to come because humans have a choice and, to a degree, we are unpredictable. Industrial Revolution 4.0, with its many technologies, has given us more than just a taste of the future — it has also given us a distaste for some things we want to avoid in the future. We will move from artificial intelligence in only tech environments to AI improving everyday life. I am sure we will see enhancements across the board. Here are just a few examples of what I believe we will see in the 2020s:
- Artificial intelligence in public safety. Public spaces will, and should, become safer, thanks to AI-powered biometrics, facial recognition and analytics from user behavior. The ability to analyze, identify and react to aberrations in behavior in real time will create much safer spaces and encourage deeper connections between people.
- AI in healthcare. AI will make huge strides in healthcare, providing earlier and more accurate detection of illness or disease with highly relevant treatments and a reduction in trial and error treatment options. Diagnoses by AI-powered imaging will be standard between patient and doctor, without the need to travel to a doctor’s office. Medications for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer, depression, thyroid and more will become refined until they are one day personalized. Precision robotic surgeries will be commonplace and eventually require little to no human interaction, making surgery available to patients in hard to reach places in the world.
- 5G and autonomous vehicles. A 5G-connected world will enable autonomous vehicles to work with no perceptible lag time, creating much safer (and optimized) travel. Not only will we see manageable driving conditions, cars will become readily available to those who have been unable to drive: the blind, elderly, impaired or economically disadvantaged. Autonomous vehicles will cultivate independence and an improved quality of life for so many.
- Bots in agriculture. Bots will become routine “labor,” used to plant, seed, harvest and precisely water crops. Optimization of the supply and demand for food will result in healthier foods, more foods available in areas where farming is difficult, and less negative environmental impact.
- Smart cities. As mega-cities develop, improvements in “the little things” will become critical. Smart cities, using a combination of AI, 5G and IoT, will offer improved air quality through purification systems, intelligent traffic signals, self-regulated street lights, automated recycling initiatives, noise reduction, no-checkout grocery stores, urban farms and improved mass transit.
Technologies like AI, 5G and IoT have sweeping capabilities. And to be fair, although we are inundated with technology, we haven’t been going about it all wrong. We needed the 2010s to understand tech’s reach and prioritize its potential. Up until now, we’ve harnessed technologies such as AI to achieve more, more, and more. I believe during the second half of the 2020s, however, we will leverage these potent technologies to achieve more meaning. We can no longer miss the point. Humans will drive technology, now more than ever, to ensure better and improved quality of life, no matter how rich or poor. We must let go of technology as single solutions that clutter our lives with digital noise and use tech to improve our lives on a large scale. We must move from tech overload to tech empowerment, and quieten the noise of loud living by providing extraordinary, simple processes that profoundly improve our quality of life. AI will help us focus on the things that move us at the deepest level.
While the 2010s have been absolutely necessary to develop the technologies we have, the 2020s will be where we put those technologies to the best uses and let go of the ones that no longer serve us well. We want to be connected, but not just connected by the internet. We want to be connected deeply — in our conversations, in the things we care about, and in our future. We are experiencing a shift where people must be the focus, not technology. We want to be empowered by technology, not tied to it. The 2020s will see us turn our attention to the ultimate human experience —living — and get us ready for the 2030s and beyond.